Twin Metals, one of the companies proposing nonferrous mineral mining near Ely, announced this week it is drawing up plans for its mine. This March 27 John Myers Duluth News Tribune story paints quite a picture of Twin Metals’ mining aspirations.
The so-called Nokomis project along Minnesota Highway 1 near the Kawishiwi River is now expected to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, one of the state’s largest private enterprises ever, and could employ more than 1,000 people to mine some 400 million tons of ore-bearing rock.
The mine will be so big, with miles of tunnels reaching some 4,500 feet below ground (and potentially below Birch Lake), that giant dump trucks will simply drive right down a gradual decline to the ore. Some of the processing may even happen deep in the mine, and much of the leftover rock will be back-filled into the mine.
“It will be a lot like an underground city,’’ said Bob McFarlin, Twin Metals’ vice president of public and government affairs, in a recent interview with the News Tribune.
This project is considerably larger than the one proposed by Polymet, some 30 miles away, but has not garnered as many headlines because it isn’t as far along in the permitting process. In both cases, significant environmental concerns and opposition are slowing the release of any permits. These proposals reflect the most optimistic outcome for mining supporters, but will also face challenges in the complicated commodities market of mineral extraction, processing and sale.
Nevertheless, the term “Underground City” always gets my attention.