The Fight for Water & Treaty Rights in the Great Lakes

The Orvana-Copperwood Project | MI

Status | Permits Received — Additional testing and mine design work is ongoing. A start date of 2015 is anticipated. On February 11, 2014, Highland Copper (also see the Keweenaw Copper Project) announced its plans to purchase this project from Orvana Resources. Read their press release here.

Location | 1.5 mi from Lake Superior, near Wakefield, MI

Type of Mine | underground – copper, silver

Estimated Mine Life | 14 years

Anticipated Output |  7,500 short tons ore/day

Concerns |

  • The presence of chalcocite (a copper sulfide) in the deposit could result in acid mine drainage.
  • Mining will occur as close as 200 feet from Lake Superior. The ore deposit itself extends beneath Lake Superior.
  • Water will be drawn from Lake Superior for use in production
  • Water will be discharged into Nabeminag Creek, which flows into Lake Superior
  • A permanent tailings basin on the surface would fill over 16,000 feet of streams and about 60 acres of wetlands (with the potential to leach heavy metals and other contaminants for centuries). The tailings dry stack would reach 14 stories high.
  • Less environmentally impactful alternatives are not being considered due to their higher cost. (i.e. backfilling tailings into the mine)
  • The project lies within the 1842 treaty boundary resulting in potential impacts to reserved treaty resources, including nearby Lake Superior fisheries.
  • The perpetual care associated with the pumping of a Lake Superior freshwater cap to prevent discharge of salty brine water (as exemplified at the nearby White Pine Mine) is not guaranteed.

Projected Jobs Created |  estimates range from 100-300 direct

Company Website |

State Agency Website | MDEQ

Additional Information | The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the National Wildlife Federation are actively monitoring this project.

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