Mining Always Challenging: Industry complex on multiple levels: Eagle Mine chief

Katrice Perkins/ Daily Mining Gazette Kristen Mariuzza, general manager of the Eagle Mine, speaks with audience members about the company’s operations and case studies on Monday at the Great Lakes Research Center.

HOUGHTON — Kristen Mariuzza, Michigan Technological University alumna and Eagle Mine general manager, visited campus Monday to discuss mining and the company’s operations and case studies.

Mariuzza spoke to members of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s students, staff and faculty, as well as community members.

Professor Eric Seagren said the purpose of the seminar was to showcase the kind of opportunities that are available for students.

“It shows that you’re not just limited to the environmental field,” he said. “There are other opportunities as well.”

Mariuzza discussed working for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, taking a break to be a stay-at-home mom and then starting at Eagle Mine in 2010 as the environmental manager.

She then took on the role as general manager in September 2017.

“It’s been a very, very fun ride for me,” she said.

Located in Marquette County, the Eagle Mine is a high-grade nickel and copper mine owned by Lundin Mining.

The mine and corresponding Humboldt Mill were the first two permits issued under Michigan’s Part 632 Non-Ferrous Mineral Mining Law enacted in 2004.

Mariuzza talked about the company’s struggle with legal restrictions, controversy within the community and ways it has tried to overturn the negative reputation mining has.

The company’s permit was issued in 2006 and getting the mine into operation has been challenging, particularly with legal challenges, which did not end until 2015, she said.

Despite the challenges, Mariuzza said, “Mining is fascinating. There’s always a challenge, whether it’s a controversial challenge or a technical challenge. Every day is something new.”

Eagle Mine was formerly owned by global mining company Rio Tinto before being sold to Lundin Mining in 2013.

Mariuzza was asked about her worries and how being sold to a smaller company improved its perception in the community.

She said the smaller company makes it “feel more local.”

Her primary concern is the safety of the workers.

“I’m not so worried about the big things, because the way 632 is written, we have to design for the big things,” she said. “It’s the little stuff that gets missed.”

To lessen controversy, Eagle mine hosts tours and public forums where officials can answer questions and be as transparent as possible with the community. Some of the ways that the company helped alleviate controversy within the community was listening to its concerns.

Of its 463 employees, 80 percent of them are local and most come from the Marquette community. Mariuzza said they were able to bring in experienced miners to teach them.

They also have programs to help with entrepreneurship and education to help locals be able to find jobs and progress once the mine is gone.

“Our goal is to leave Marquette better than it was before we were there,” said Mariuzza.