Onto. County mine inspector updates board

Vanessa Dietz/Daily Mining Gazette Ontonagon County mine inspector Bob Niemela told the County Board this week he’s been busy at his new job and offered hope for the future of copper mining in the area.

CORRECTED: Ontonagon County Mine Inspector Bob Niemela said the high spring runoff in the Mineral River is flowing into the historic C & H No. 1 shaft across from the Konteka Restaurant. He said the water is pumped from the White Pine mine into Lake Superior by an after-use third party company. To remedy the situation, the owners would have to rebuild a cofferdam.

ONTONAGON — He may be new to the job, but the county mine inspector has had plenty of experience working in the trenches.

“I’ve spent 52 years underground,” said Bob Niemela, who joked about his age while addressing the county board Tuesday, saying he’d likely spend a lot more time underground in the future.

All kidding aside, Niemela said he’s been busy since winning the election inspecting 23 of the 110 mine sites in Ontonagon County.

Most were in good shape, however high water levels are causing a “failure” in the old workings of the White Pine mine.

He said the high spring runoff in the Mineral River is flowing into the historic C & H No. 1 shaft across from the Konteka Restaurant. To remedy the situation, he said the owners would have to rebuild a cofferdam.

Niemela said he’s been working with Highland Copper Co. to ensure the company’s proposed copper mining projects bring Ontonagon County long-term prosperity.

“It’s a boom-bust situation now. We want to get away from that,” he said, noting one way to do that is to turn the copper into a more valuable end-product here, rather than just shipping it out for further processing as has been the practice in years past.

“Ontonagon should be the richest county,” Niemela said, as the center of copper mining in the industry’s recent history. “We give too much away.

“I’d like to encourage you to think about that,” he told the board. “Small mines will be a good thing for this area and put it back where it was before.”

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