L’ANSE – Rio Tinto representatives provided an update on the Eagle Mine, collected live electronic survey results through a community scorecard and fielded an array of questions and comments during a mining forum Wednesday night at the L’Anse American Legion Post 144.
Matt Johnson, manager of external relations at Rio Tinto Eagle, gave a brief historical recap of the mine, starting with explorations dating back to the 1950s, the discovery of the ore body in 2002, the permit application and finalization in 2008 and 2010, respectively, and the start of underground drilling in 2011.
“We do have a goal of being in production in 2014,” he said. “A few months ago we announced a moderated schedule, so we pushed our schedule back. (Work on the Humboldt Mill) has been postponed for the time being.”
Production was originally slated to start in early 2014; now it’ll likely be toward the end of that year, but that’s not the only reason the life of the mine will extend farther.
“Over the last six months to a year or so, we’ve been able to find more ore, so we’re very happy to announce that we’ve been able to add 20 percent to our resource, which extends the life of the mine probably about a year,” Johnson said.
That’ll push the life of the northwest Marquette County mine, which will produce copper and nickel concentrate, to about eight years.
Johnson also said:
-there have been three injuries at the mine since the previous L’Anse forum on Sept. 26, two to hands, one to a thigh.
-two vertical shafts, an emergency exit and a fresh air exhaust, have been drilled up from the ore body, which is otherwise accessed through a gradual decline tunnel.
-about 75 people from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and other tribes have visited the fenced-in Eagle Rock area to perform cultural ceremonies in the last year.
-the independent Community Environmental Monitoring program, which is a collaboration between the Marquette County Community Foundation and Superior Watershed Partnership, is fully operational. Its findings can be found at cempmonitoring.com.
Community scorecard, feedback
After fielding a few questions and before turning the floor over to Chantae Lessard, principal advisor for communities and social performance, Johnson said the community scorecard method of receiving feedback is a new concept for Rio Tinto.
“We don’t do this at any other project in the world, but it’s also a learning experience,” he said, noting the process should be completed in about 45 minutes.
Persistent questions and comments from the audience of about two dozen extended the scorecard segment just past an hour. The event as a whole lasted approximately two hours.
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