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State of Michigan could invest in Canadian mining company's copper project

Highland Copper in the running for US$50-million development grant
(Highland Copper photo)

A Canadian company with a copper mine project in northern Michigan is in the running for a substantial subsidy from the State of Michigan. 

Highland Copper Company announced the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has proposed a US$50-million grant for its Copperwood mine project in the Upper Peninsula. The money would come from the Strategic Site Readiness Program.

But it’s not a done deal. Final approval still has to come from the state’s Application Committee in both the Michigan legislature’s house of representatives and senate.

Quebec-based Highland owns the Copperwood deposit situated at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula on the south shore of Lake Superior and has a 34 per cent stake in the nearby White Pine North copper deposit.

Both projects are in an area where copper mining has been part of the Upper Peninsula’s economic fabric since the 19th century.

The company could make a construction decision to start building the $425-million mine this year.

In a news release, the company said it presented its project to the board of Michigan Strategic Fund for grant consideration on Jan.30. 

The program provides funding assistance for “investment-ready sites” as a means to promote investment in the state. Eighteen other projects across Michigan were recently awarded funds from this $87.5-million pot. Funds can be used for land acquisition, site prep, infrastructure improvements, demolition, construction, environmental remediation, among other uses.

In a statement, Highland’s interim CEO, Barry O’Shea, said he is “thrilled” to be in consideration, calling their discussions with the board “constructive.”

“We had the opportunity to discuss the project yesterday with the Michigan Strategic Fund Board, from whom approval is required.

“The MSF Board had a range of questions that we look forward to addressing over the coming period in anticipation of a successful outcome.

“We believe the economic impact of the project will be transformational for the Upper Peninsula and we are thankful for the unwavering support from the local communities.”

Copper is regarded as the ‘metal of electrification’ and is considered essential to the clean energy transition.

The Copperwood Project is considered a good fit with the state’s focus on electrification and electric vehicle mobility, and has the potential to be a key source of U.S. domestic supply of copper to supply the “clean energy transition,” said the release.

Copperwood is fully permitted by the state and, according to the company, has the support of local stakeholders with 20 area villages, cities, townships and counties on board, along with local businesses and organizations, which have submitted favourable resolutions and letters of support for the grant application.

Once in operation, the Copperwood mine would provide 380 direct jobs, plus a number of spinoff jobs and spending in an area that endured industry closures in the past few decades. The company offers an online portal for suppliers to register.