Editor’s Note: This is an update to a story that we published about the proposed copper mining in Porcupine Mountains. Michigan Strategic Fund is considering a grant for the Copperwood project – a project that will destroy the natural habitat in the Porcupine Mountains. This is an urgent call for action, you can find the original piece here.
URGENT: Michigan considering $50M grant for Copperwood
We are writing today with an urgent action request that needs to be completed as soon as possible. If you care about the health of Lake Superior and about the wilderness quality of the North Country Trail and Porcupine Mountains State Park, now is the time to fight for it.
An article released on January 30th reports that the Michigan Strategic Fund is currently considering a $50 million grant for the Copperwood project. This money would more than double Highland Copper’s bank account, but more importantly, a State endorsement would provide a massive boost in momentum and be used as leverage for future funds from grants, investors, and loans. To quote Highland Copper’s CEO Barry O’Shea: “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of how our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.”
Fortunately, a few of the MSF board members have expressed doubts regarding the necessity and wisdom of the grant, and the decision has been deferred to subcommittee for expedited consideration. We don’t know the timeframe in which a decision will be made, which is why it is crucial we act NOW.
We are asking you to write a message to the Michigan Strategic Fund board members who are deliberating over this grant as we speak. Their emails are provided below. We have already sent them a thorough elaboration on all our key arguments, so you only need to follow up with a few short paragraphs or even a few sentences. Write about whatever points resonate personally with you, but keep in mind, these are businesspeople who are interested mainly in the soundness of their investment.
Here are a few points to inspire your pen:
- Are they aware of this petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing Copperwood’s development? 11,000 is more than the populations of the closest three towns to the Mine combined (Wakefield, Bessemer, and Ironwood). Contrary to what they have been told, social license for this project is far from universal.
- The board members are likely not familiar with this area— remind them that this is not “the middle of nowhere”: the juncture of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness, the North Country Trail, and Lake Superior is one of the most spectacular outdoor recreation areas in the country.
- Outdoor recreation contributes over $10 billion to Michigan’s economy annually; mining, around $1 billion. An operating mine would disrupt this thriving outdoor recreation area with noise pollution, light pollution, subterranean blasting, and heavy industrial traffic.
- Copperwood would be the closest sulfide mine to Lake Superior in history. Copper sulfide mines always contaminate and tailings dams are far from invincible.
- Inform them that, despite what they may have been told, copper is NOT a critical mineral and therefore there is no urgent need to fund this project.
Specific Economic Arguments
- Highland Copper is a foreign company, largely funded by foreign investors;
- The copper will be transported to Canada for processing, meaning a great many of the highest-paying jobs will go to foreigners. See the 2023 Feasibility Study:
P. 1.18 states concentrate to be shipped by a trans-load facility in Champion, MI to have access to Canadian National Railway networks (CN).
P. 19.2.1 discusses the need for downstream refining and smelting: “Several smelters could receive concentrate with the nearby candidates being the Horne smelter located in Noranda, Quebec or the copper smelter in Sudbury, Ontario. Other alternatives include seaborne export to Asia or Europe.”
- If this project is such a slam dunk, why haven’t they been able to procure funding after over a decade of scrambling?
- And why did their CEO step down just a few months ago?
- This study on the economic impact of mining shows that only 25% of mines lead to long-term economic benefit for communities, with half of those coming from before 1982, and most of those being new coal strip mines out West; in other words, it is an exceedingly small fraction of mines which will lead to meaningful economic revitalization.
- The study specifically cites the issue of “flickering“— the tendency for metal mines to close and re-open, again and again, as the price of a mineral fluctuates above and below the cost of operation; this creates much uncertainty in the lives of workers. Flickering is what has defined Copperwood’s entire nonexistence thus far: the flickering of funding, the flickering of proposed start-up dates, the flickering of CEOs. Highland Copper has stated again and again that, in addition to awaiting the necessary capital, they are awaiting a surge in the price of copper to make the project viable— Great… but what happens if the price plunges after the mine begins operation?
- This is a big chunk of change for a project that will only last 11 years;
- Since HC’s market cap is only $43 million — well short of the $390 million in startup capital required — MSF would be investing in a company that likely will be taken over by a larger partner at some point before the mine is up and running;
- Interim CEO Barry O’Shea said, “I can tell you with certainty that an award of this nature will move the needle significantly in terms of (how) our debt providers and our equity investors look at our company. It’s not only a large financial boost for the project, but it is a true endorsement.”
In other words, he has stated explicitly that they want to use an official State endorsement as leverage to win over more outside equity investors and bank loans— a pretty suspect use of Michigan taxpayer money, don’t you think?
- Finally, Highland Copper no doubt touted their “resolutions of support” gathered from area townhalls. Keep in mind, those resolutions were agreed upon by no more than two or three dozen people. Meanwhile, there is a petition with over 11,000 signatures opposing the Mine.
Now, without further ado, the details of the action:
- Firstly, please submit your short message via this online form (allows for limited length )
- Secondly, send that same message, or a longer version, to the e-mail addresses below— you may copy and paste the entire list directly into the CC: field of a new email. These addresses comprise ALL the Michigan Strategic Fund board members, plus a few more of special relevance:
You can also call the office of Quentin L. Messer, Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund:
Again, this is our most important action to date, and the clock is ticking!
Thank you for your help, everyone! Remember, ProtectThePorkies is not an organization, but a movement, comprised of anyone who feels a connection to this area and a desire to fight for its wellbeing! Take care!