MICHauto > Blog > MICHauto in the News > Michigan Strategic Fund to Support Western U.P. Mining Project; 380 New Jobs

Michigan Strategic Fund to Support Western U.P. Mining Project; 380 New Jobs

March 26, 2024

Photo credit: Highland Copper

Radio Results Network
March 26, 2024
Jack Hall

Community leaders, local business owners, and residents from Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula held a virtual press conference today to commend the Michigan Strategic Fund for investing $50 million to support site readiness at the Copperwood Mine in Wakefield and Ironwood Townships in Gogebic County.

The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $425 million and create 380 long-term, good-paying jobs, as well as 300 additional construction jobs in the Western Upper Peninsula.

Copperwood Resources, Inc., the subsidiary of Highland Copper responsible for the construction of Copperwood Mine, received a $50 million Strategic Site Readiness Program performance-based grant to help address the significant site improvement costs associated with the project, including transportation, power and telecommunications improvements that will benefit the surrounding communities as well.

“We must invest in rural America for our local and national economic security,” said Invest UP Vice Chair Matt Johnson. “The Upper Peninsula has a long history of providing mineral resources that continues today with the only operating nickel mine and one of the few iron ore mines in the USA. The future of domestic responsible mining requires partnerships with local communities and both government and private investment that will support our regional economy and provide critical mineral resources for society. During Copperwood’s life of mine, family-sustaining jobs, local taxes, and infrastructure investment will strengthen the future of our rural communities and the regional mining industry.”

Coppwerwood Mine is one of very few fully permitted greenfield copper mines in the United States. The copper being mined has a non-acid generating ore body, meaning it is incapable of producing acidic runoff that would adversely affect the environment and the health of people or animals. The project will not draw water from Lake Superior.

Copperwood Resources has a financial assurance of $6.5 million, subject to review and additional bonding every three years, currently in place with the state of Michigan as a security for taxpayers and the community to ensure all required reclamation activities can be completed. The company has committed to placing hundreds of acres of natural wetland habitats in conservation easements. The ecology of these conservation areas will remain protected long after the mine has stopped operating.

“We could not be more excited about this investment and the opportunity to bring almost 400 good-paying jobs to the Upper Peninsula,” said Highland Copper Chief Executive Officer Bary O’Shea. “I’d like to thank Governor Whitmer, the state of Michigan and the people of Western UP for being such wonderful partners on this project. We look forward to building a future together.”

According to an economic impact study by Public Sector Consultants, the operation is projected to provide more than $15 million per year in local, county, state, and federal revenue and increase business spending across the state by more than $130 million annually.

“The Copperwood Mine project is an important economic development project for the state, and it will create jobs. Most importantly, however, is the project’s role in enhancing Michigan’s leadership in resilient automotive and mobility supply chains and the advancement of the new energy economy,” said Executive Director of MICHauto Glenn Stevens. “From mining to the recycling of those same minerals, Michigan must play a leadership role in bolstering U.S. competitiveness and reducing dependence on foreign supply chain sources. As we look at the production of everything from EV batteries to solar panels, Coppperwood can play a critical role.”

Many in the region recognize the Copperwood Mine project as an opportunity to grow the local economy and create jobs for this generation and the next. Twenty-two units of government, ranging from townships to county boards, have issued resolutions of support, nearly ten local institutions have submitted letters of support, and dozens of community members have spoken publicly during Michigan Strategic Fund meetings.

Local and Statewide Voices in Support of the Copperwood Mine Project

“This is a very exciting opportunity for the State of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Natural resources-based economies have made Michigan a prosperous state for hundreds of years,” said State Senator Ed McBroom, 38th District of Michigan. “We’ve worked very hard for many years to make this happen and I am so glad we are finally here.”

“This project is vital to the economy of the Western Upper Peninsula and of strategic value to our nation as well,” said State Representative Greg Markkanen, 110th District of Michigan.

“For over a decade, Wakefield Township has been involved with and fully supports Highland Copper and their continuing efforts in creating a fully permitted, safe mining operation within our township and neighboring Ironwood Township,” said Wakefield Township Supervisor Mandy Lake. “The proposed Copperwood Mine brings hope to our surrounding communities to have a sustainable future in the Western Upper Peninsula. We look forward to continuing our partnership to help them provide an essential copper resource, which will help boost our local economy and support Michigan’s initiatives for a bright and booming future through EVs and clean energy. Wakefield Township is pleased to have the opportunity to work with Highland Copper, MEDC, and MSF, to help mining return to the Gogebic Range.”

“The history of mining on the Gogebic Range defines who we are. We are extremely grateful to Copperwood Resources and to everyone involved in the process to get us this far,” said Ironwood Township Supervisor Jay Kangas. “The community is ready and willing to continue the work to bring this transformational project to Ironwood and Wakefield townships. To bring an environmentally sound copper mine to the Upper Peninsula once more will not only revitalize our regional economy, but it will lessen our state and national dependence on the foreign supply of copper. The legacy the mining industry created remains strong.”

“I’ve hunted and fished in areas around mines my whole life, and I know mining, wildlife, and recreation can coexist. Both my grandfathers were miners,” said City of Ironwood resident Paul Holst. “This investment will not only bring more mining jobs to the UP, but residual jobs and employment for our kids.”

“The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council understands the complexity of the Copperwood Mine Project. We will ensure that it is built safely, timely and to the highest construction and environmental standards,” said Ryan Stern, U.P. Representative of the Michigan Building Trades Council. “For far too long high school seniors have left the area to seek good-paying jobs. This project will give those graduating high school an opportunity to earn a good living without having to relocate. The construction, operations, and maintenance of this facility will provide hundreds of family sustainable jobs to an area that is greatly in need of an economic boost.”

“The City of Ironwood has seen ten decades of population decline and over the past winter, with low snowfalls, we have seen how fragile our tourist economy really is,” said City of Ironwood Community Development Director Tom Bergman. “To be an economically sustainable community we need diverse industries. Copperwood provides an important piece to that picture as well as a jumpstart to a robust local economy.”