Copperwood Resources Inc. – a subsidiary of Highland Copper – has completed its winter exploration begun in February of a 1-mile section of the westernmost portion of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
Exploratory drilling was conducted in this part of Gogebic County to see if the eastern extension of a mineral deposit first explored in the 1950s might feasibly be mined, which could potentially enlarge the mining company’s Copperwood Project beyond its currently-permitted boundaries.
Drilling and testing will determine hydrologic and geologic composition of the bedrock beneath the surface. Copperwood Resources is leasing the mineral rights from another company which owns those rights beneath this part of the park. The state of Michigan manages the land surface features.
Earlier this winter, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources granted a land use permit for the work, allowing the mining company to resume exploration begun last winter at the park. Additional permits were required from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for two of the drilling sites situated in wetland areas.
Three holes were drilled this winter on park land. A separate land use permit was granted by the Gogebic County Road Commission for drilling work at three sites that took place on county property, within the right-of-way of County Road 519.
Two additional test holes were drilled to the ore body from Copperwood Resources property situated west of the park. The mining company has completed winter exploration on its lands.
“We are pleased to have completed the drilling program on our Copperwood project, and would like to thank the DNR, DEQ, and the Gogebic County Road Commission for their cooperation over the last few months,” said Justin van der Toorn, exploration manager of Copperwood Resources Inc. “The winter conditions have held out well for us and allowed us to finish all eight drill holes as planned. The information and assays that are derived from this work will now be incorporated into our ongoing feasibility study that is still on schedule for completion this summer.”
The road commission and DNR permits included several provisions aimed at protecting land surface features.
“All of the stipulations in the use permit were followed,” said Doug Rich, western U.P. district supervisor for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division.
Park management officials visited the site after drilling had ceased.
Some details of the winter drilling work include:
- Eight diamond drill holes were completed for a total of 9,484 feet.
- The holes ranged in depth from 768 feet to 1,298 feet.
- All holes were cemented upon completion.
- Two diamond drilling rigs were used to help ensure the program was completed on time, and because of some early delays.
- At one of the sites along County Road 519, timber matting was used to prevent any ground disturbance and ensure the ground remained frozen beneath. This was done in agreement with the road commission as an additional protective measure, as daytime temperatures briefly rose above freezing.
- Work was completed March 29.
- Reseeding will take place where needed, once the ground has thawed this spring.
- The DNR received daily updates on the project.
None of this exploration work was conducted in the wilderness section of the park, but in an area where several historic impacts have occurred, including logging and a narrow-gauge railroad.
If Copper Resources eventually decides to extend the Copperwood Project, the copper deposit would be accessed from outside the park boundary, without disturbance to park surface features.
Any potential mining of the minerals would require a separate regulatory process through the DEQ. Copperwood Resources would have to amend its existing permit.
“The DNR will ensure there would be opportunity for public review and comment before any mining would occur on minerals beneath the park,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer.
For more information on the Copperwood Project in the western Upper Peninsula, visit www.highlandcopper.com/copperwood.