UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is awarding state transportation economic development grants that will support 355 jobs in the Upper Peninsula. The Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Category A grants totaling $5,180,733 will leverage $338,800,000 in private investment, at a private/public investment ratio of more than 65-to-1.
Copperwood Resources, a mining and exploration subsidiary of Highland Copper Co., is proposing to mine copper ore and produce copper concentrate in Gogebic County's Ironwood and Wakefield townships. This development, known as the Copperwood Project, is located on Gogebic County Road (CR) 519, 13 miles north of M-28. In order to mine the copper ore and process copper concentrate on-site, Copperwood Resources will construct a new $300,000,000 facility, creating 250 new jobs and transferring an additional 50 jobs into Michigan.
The copper ore concentrate produced by the facility must be shipped immediately to reduce oxidation and loss of value. CR 519 provides the only roadway access to the Copperwood Project site and is not an all-season road. To avoid substantially increased costs, an all-season road is required. The Gogebic County Road Commission will reconstruct CR 519 to all-season standards 13 miles from M-28 to the site entrance. Additional work will include upgrading guardrail, drainage improvements, and constructing paved shoulders. The CR 519/Johnson Road intersection will also be widened to improve truck turning movements and increase safety.
The overall cost of this project is $7,958,869, including $4,775,321 in TEDF Category A funding and $3,183,548 from Copperwood Resources. The 2019 grant is contingent upon the mine obtaining all applicable state and federal permits and the continued funding of the TEDF Category A program by the Michigan Legislature.
"Upgrading CR 519 is critical to the Copperwood Project for both development and operations, because any seasonal restrictions regarding load limits for transportation in and out of the plant site would have a detrimental impact on the business and may prevent it from advancing," said Highland Copper CEO Denis Miville-Deschenes. "The upgrade will ensure that our project continues to advance, and it will also improve access to other industrial park businesses, logging operations along CR 519, and tourism activities in the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park."
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) is undertaking a major expansion of its Marquette Ojibwa Casino facility located just south of M-28 in Chocolay Township. As part of this expansion, the existing gaming area will be effectively doubled, a new 76-unit hotel will be constructed, and a new 18,000-square-foot events center will be built. Associated with the expansion is more than $38,800,000 in new buildings and infrastructure, resulting in the creation of 53 jobs and two employees transferred to Michigan.
To address concerns about delays at the casino entrance caused by additional traffic on M-28 and to improve safety, MDOT will widen M-28 by constructing a 1,100-foot dedicated left-turn lane at the casino entrance, along with a new westbound through-lane. In addition, a 330-foot offset, dedicated right-turn lane will be constructed on eastbound M-28 at the casino entrance. These improvements will minimize the impact of the additional traffic expected and maintain traffic flow on M-28.
The total project cost is $675,687, including $405,412 in TEDF Category A funding. Additional funding includes $223,275 from the MDOT Superior Region and $47,000 provided by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.
"The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community appreciates the good working relationship that has been developed between the tribe and MDOT regarding our casino expansion in Chocolay Township," said KBIC CEO Larry Denomie. "This cooperative project will increase the safety for our guests coming to our beautiful facility as well as those travelers passing by on M-28. It will be beneficial to the economy of Marquette County."
Enacted in 1987 and reauthorized in 1993, the TEDF helps finance highway, road and street projects that are critical to the movement of people and products, and getting workers to their jobs, materials to growers and manufacturers, and finished goods to consumers.
TEDF "Category A" or "Targeted Industries Program" grants provide state funding for public roadway improvements that allow road agencies to respond quickly to the transportation needs of expanding companies and eliminate inadequate roadways as an obstacle to private investment and job creation. Eligible road agencies include MDOT, county road commissions, cities and villages. More information about the program is available online at www.michigan.gov/tedf.