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September 5, 2019

HANCOCK — The White Pine Refinery is ramping up toward commercial operations. 


Zach Halkola, chief operating officer of PM Power Group, which owns the White Pine Copper Refinery, spoke at Wednesday’s Keweenaw Alliance Breakfast.

The facility has the capacity to produce 3 million pounds of copper cathode annually from landfill-diverted products. Halkola brought samples Wednesday of 99.9% pure copper that were either extracted from copper waste or from 20% copper byproducts from industrial waste.

As of August, the plant was operating at 90 cells of plating, versus a capacity of 720. They hope to be operating at full load by 2020, Halkola said.

The refinery has completed some copper sales to Midwestern Mill. Some large raw material suppliers have also visited, who could potentially bring in 7 million pounds per months, Halkola said.

Believe it or not, having a facility like this in the Midwest could be really beneficial,” he said.

The current workforce includes 12 full-time and one part-time employee, Halkola said. An additional 15 jobs could be added as a result of the copper production, he said.

The White Pine Mine could be used as a repository for stamp sands sands migrating from Gay in one of the options being considered by a multi-agency task force. There is about 15 million tons of stamp sands.

PM Power is working on a pilot project under a $100,000 grant from LARA/Rural Development to learn if the beneficial reuse of the stamp sands is economically feasible. Based on lab tests, it contains about 5 to 7 pounds of
copper per ton, Halkola said.

“Our long-term goal is to try to develop a private-public relationship to help do this,” Halkola said. “We can’t do this on our own, but we think we would bring some benefit and it’s worth studying.”

With the help from the Keweenaw County Road Commission, White Pine has removed about 20 tons of sand for testing. To reduce spillage, it put the sands in super sacks. A commercial project would move it off the beach with a barge or truck.

Part of the study will include using a conveyor system to bring the stamp sands to the plant site from a barge.

The pilot project uses

At $584 million, the White Pine option is the most expensive of the options outlined by the task. But Halkola said the task force should also consider the value of reusing the stamp sand versus merely containing it.

“We want to come back from our pilot program and say, ‘Yeah, there’s some costs up front, but here’s the value that you get from doing this right,'” he said.

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