Porcupine Wilderness copper drilling resuming

Michigan Department of Natural Resources map The location of sites planned for feasibility testing by Copperwood Resources.

GOGEBIC — Copper exploration in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is resuming, though scaled down from original plans.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved Copperwood Resources to continue its exploratory drilling, the DNR announced in a press release. The drilling is being used to determine the feasibility of mining a copper vein under the park by examining bedrock composition.

The work in question is to be completed over the next month and a half.

Three test holes are planned, down from the original eight, and two additional permits are required from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) due to wetland proximity.

The permit requests come after the DEQ and Copperwood reached a settlement in January over a work-tied erosion case last year on a road right of way within the park where a wetland was damaged.

The reduction in drilling sites is unrelated to the erosion incident, said DNR spokesperson John Pepin.

“They’re trying to gather all this information so they can finish their feasibility study which they anticipate having out later this year,” Pepin said.

The original goal of 12 drill tests was disrupted by warm weather leading to a drilling halt with only four tests completed.

After the incident, Copperwood intended to use that data to complete the feasibility study but realized more information was needed leading to the latest permit requests.

“It was determined that…they needed a little more delineation of the ore bodies, so they’re going back in and instead of having to drill the remaining eight, they’re just going to drill three,” Pepin said.

The drilling itself requires frozen ground and that holes be filled with cement once the cores are removed.

The goal is to reduce the disturbance of drilling.

If mining proves feasible, copper would need to be extracted using out of park access points to try to minimize impacts to the area. Mining would also require additional regulation and permitting and public review and comment to move forward.