Highland Copper rehabilitating wetlands in the Porcupine Mountains

WAKEFIELD, Mich. (WLUC) - Highland Copper continues to research the viability of opening a copper mine outside Wakefield. The company began exploratory drilling last winter in several places, including inside the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

In compliance with their agreement with the DNR, drilling stopped on public land when the ground began to thaw. Now they are rehabilitating wetlands near the Porcupine Mountains after drilling operations damaged protected land. Rehabilitation is expected to be done by the end of August, but the area was only determined to be a wetland, after they began drilling.

"We were happy with the way that they handled the site. We had specific considerations that we helped develop with Highland and they worked very closely with us," DNR Public Relations Officer John Pepin said.

They continue to drill on their own nearby land, and after finishing in the state park, applied for permits with the Gogebic County Road Commission to continue exploratory drilling from along CR 519.

To keep their machines off the road, they used old snowmobile trails to move their tracked equipment into place, but their efforts to limit their impact on the area were not completely effective.

"So we, as I said earlier, admittedly made a mistake. We stayed drilling too long and now we are repairing that mistake," Highland Copper Executive Vice President Carlos Bertoni said.

Highland officials hired consultants King and McGregor to study the impacted land. The consultants determined part of the property used to access the drill site could be classified as protected land after they finished drilling.

"So of the total disturbed area, on the trail and drill sites, there's 3.4 acres. 1.9 acres of that is wetland," Highland Senior Environmental Engineer Tom Repaal said.

"This had not been mapped, and we did not interpret this as wetland," Bertoni said. "Myself as a geologist I could not tell you what is wetland and what is not wetland."

Opening the mine is not guaranteed, however from the core samples already extracted, Highland officials say the results have been positive.

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