Friday, July 13, 2018

UPDATED: MDEQ to hold public meeting/hearing on proposed Copperwood mining permit amendment, water permit updates

By Michele Bourdieu

This photo shows a portion of Namebinag Creek, which could be impacted by wastewater discharges from the Copperwood mining project. See map below showing nearby streams. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy John Leddy)

[UPDATE: MDEQ has announced they will extend the comment period on renewal of Copperwood's permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, for 10 days following the July 17 Public Hearing announced below. Public comments on this permit will now be accepted through Thursday, July 26, 2018.]

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) will hold a joint public meeting and hearing regarding Highland Copper subsidiary Copperwood Resources Inc.’s recent requests: 1) to amend Mining Permit MP 01 2012, issued under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining, and (2) renewal of Copperwood's permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994, PA 1994, as amended.

The meeting/hearing will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, July 17, at Gogebic Community College, Lindquist Student and Conference Center, Upper Level Conference Room, E-4946 Jackson Road, Ironwood, MI 49938.

The meeting will allow questions and answers on both permits and provide information on the changes proposed in the amendment to the Part 632 Mining Permit, including (1) relocation of process plant; (2) additional of outdoor stockpile; and (3) modification of mine ventilation.*

According to Copperwood's Amendment proposal, "The defined Project mining area associated with this Amendment remains similar to the mining area presented in the original Mine Permit Application (MPA) (Orvana, 2011).  The only change to the mining area occurs along the western portion of the mining area, where its boundary extends further to the southwest to account for the modified layout of the processing and support facilities."

This map, a screenshot from figure 2-1 of Copperwood's proposed Amendment to their Part 632 Mining permit, shows the change in mining area. The yellow line in the southwest corner marks the original extent of mining in the permit, while the green line shows the new southwest boundary. Click on map for slightly larger version or click here for the proposed Amendment and go to p. 54, Figure 2-1, for the original size. (Image courtesy Copperwood Resources Inc.)

According to MDEQ officials, neither permit is directly related to recent mining exploration activity in and near the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which is near the proposed Copperwood mine site.**

"None of it is (the proposed Part 632 amendment) is going to affect the Porkies," said Joe Maki, geology specialist for the MDEQ Oil, Gas and Minerals Division (Upper Peninsula office).

View of the Lake of the Clouds, one of the most scenic views in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Porkies). The view to the right of the photo (west and south) could be impeded by the proposed 14-storey-high tailings pile proposed in the original Copperwood Mining permit application submitted by Orvana in 2011 and issued in 2012. They claimed the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) and mill site would not be visible from this overlook but a small clearing and the tops of the TDF dikes might be visible above the trees. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

According to James Caron of MDEQ Water Resources, the renewal permit under Parts 301, 303 and 325 is nearly the same as the original, with the addition of a water intake pipe from Lake Superior (marked in upper left corner of above map). The new permit also includes a slight decrease in wetland impacts, Caron added.

This early map shows the approximate area of the projected Copperwood Project and its proximity to Lake Superior and streams. Click on map for larger version. (Keweenaw Now file map courtesy Jessica Koski)

A June 27, 2018, Public Notice from MDEQ's Water Resources Division states the following: "The applicant proposes to dredge and fill streams and wetlands and dredge and fill bottomlands of Lake Superior for the purpose of constructing a new copper mine including an access road, mine entrance, mill, tailings basin, water intake, and related structures."

The Public Notice summarizes the impacts to streams and wetlands, including impacts of the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) construction as follows:

"Stream Impacts: Eleven existing stream crossing culverts will be removed and replaced with new pipe arch culverts of various sizes and lengths to match stream bankfull widths. Three new stream crossing pipe arch culverts will also be installed. These upgraded or new crossings will allow access to the mine site, water intake, mill site, mitigation site and other related facilities. Approximately 16,557 lineal feet of stream channel, including sections of Lehigh Creek and the
West and East Branches of Gipsy Creek, will be abandoned during construction of the tailings disposal facility. Approximately 3,900 lineal feet of stream channel will be constructed to relocate a portion of the Middle Branch Gipsy Creek and approximately 8,560 lineal feet of stream channel
will be constructed to divert surface water around the south and west sides of the tailings disposal facility.

"Wetland Impacts: Approximately 7,295,157 cubic yards of fill will be placed in 43.48 acres of wetland and approximately 35,836 cubic yards of material will be excavated from 14.36 acres of wetlands to construct the main access road, the box cut, the mill site and processing plant, the mitigation access road and creation area, the ore stockpile area, the water intake road, the stream relocations and the tailings disposal facility."

The addition of a Water Intake pipeline is described thus:

"Lake Superior Water Intake: A 2,715 foot long by 18 inch diameter pipeline will be installed in Lake Superior to supply water to the mine. Approximately 7,710 cubic yards of material will be excavated below the ordinary high water mark of Lake Superior to construct the pipeline and infiltration gallery and approximately 2,610 cubic yards of coarse aggregate and 4,770 cubic yards of rip rap will be placed to backfill the pipeline after installation. Approximately 330 cubic yardsof sand and gravel and 40  cubic yards of gravel pack and 20 cubic yards of river rock will be placed around the infiltration gallery."***

Following the public meeting a formal public hearing on the permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, will be held. This is a renewal (after 5 years) of the original permit under MDEQ Water Resources.

The comment period on the Water Resources permit ends on July 26 (See UPDATE), and comments during the public hearing will be considered along with written comments, which should reference Submission Number: HND-EQMB-E27HX.

UPDATED: Documents on the Water Resources permit, including their public notice (PN Master) are available here. You may download a document and then click on Add Comment at the top of the page to comment by July 26, 2018. You may also email comments by July 26 to James Caron at caronj@michigan.gov.

The DEQ shall accept written comment on the Part 632 amendment request until 5 p.m. (EDT), August 14, 2018. Comments may be mailed to MDEQ, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, or e-mail comments to the designated MDEQ mailbox at DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including "Copperwood" as the subject.

The Copperwood Mine Permit Amendment Request documents are located on the following MDEQ web page:
NON-FERROUS METALLIC MINING, Recent Developments in Part 632 Projects, Copperwood Project Permit Amendment.

* Click here for the public notice on the July 17 meeting.

** See our April 7, 2017, article, "State, county officials address citizens' concerns about erosion from Highland Copper mining exploration along CR 519 in Porkies."
See also the Feb. 12, 2018, update from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, "Updated: Copperwood Resources to resume winter copper exploration at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park; settlement reached with DEQ on 2017 erosion damage." 

*** For background on the original Copperwood water and air quality permits see our coverage of the 2012 Public Hearing at Gogebic Community College: "MDEQ hearing on Orvana Copperwood air, water quality permits: Part 1, Questions" and "MDEQ public hearing on Orvana Copperwood mine: Part 2."

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