Michigan's U.P. Gears for Mining Rush

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Residents in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have mixed reactions to the possible “mining boom” that the area could soon face. Although some mining supporters look forward to the economic boost, others worry that the mining the landscape could hurt other industries, particularly tourism. “Who’s going to want to come to a mining district to ski or hike or backpack or snowmobile?” one anti-mining group noted. Despite aesthetic and environmental concerns, many residents look forward to mining the remaining zinc, gold, silver and copper that was recently discovered in the U.P.

After hosting a booming industry for more than a century, mining activity in the U.P. slowed in the recent past. Now, the U.P. contains only two Cliffs Natural Resources iron ore mines, located near Marquette. But things could soon look up for miners in the area, since new resources have been discovered in natural formations. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that mining companies are surveying and exploring at least 14 areas for future mines in the U.P.

“There is definitely a potential for resurgence in mining in the U.P., but to what degree I don’t know,” Jon Cherry, a project manager for Kennecott Minerals Co., told the Chicago Tribune. Cherry’s company currently has a nickel and copper mine planned in Marquette County, and he adds, “The low-hanging fruit, the easily identifiable and developed ore bodies are gone. It’s harder and more expensive to develop what remains.”

Although metals markets are known for volatility, Cherry has an optimistic outlook for the future markets in the U.P. and the future of the area’s mining operations: “We take the long-term view that society will continue to need metals, regardless of the temporary ups and downs of the market.”

–Amy Edwards

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