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Kennecott plans more mining exploration in Aitkin County

Kennecott Exploration Company is expanding its search for copper in the Tamarack area of Aitkin County. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported Thursday that Kennecott will begin exploration at 12 sites where it has leased exclusiv...

Tamarack

Kennecott Exploration Company is expanding its search for copper in the Tamarack area of Aitkin County.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported Thursday that Kennecott will begin exploration at 12 sites where it has leased exclusive rights to search for copper, nickel and other valuable metals.

According to a statement from the DNR, the company has proposed to complete a ground-based gravity or geophysical survey as opposed to drilling. The DNR describes the gravity survey as โ€œa non-invasive measurement using a sensor of the size of a large coffee pot to passively measure the earth's gravity field.โ€

The company in December said it would be conducting exploratory drilling at 20 to 40 sites as well, also near Tamarack.

A subsidiary of Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, Kennecott has been searching for copper-nickel deposits in north-central Minnesota since 2000, especially in Aitkin, Carlton, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties. It eventually zeroed in on the Tamarack area along Highway 210, about 45 miles west of Duluth.

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Kennecott has previously reported spending tens of millions of dollars on the Tamarack project to drill 196 test holes and conduct preliminary environmental and other studies on several mineral leases in Aitkin and Carlton counties on private, county and state land.

But the company essentially walked away from the project for several years. The future of the project seemed in limbo until July, when Talon Metals Corp. announced it was moving toward acquiring a 30 percent interest in the Tamarack project and renewing test drilling. Talon said it also has a "potential pathway" to take over 100 percent of the project if Kennecott chooses not to develop the mine.

Officials with British Virgin Islands-based Talon have said about 124,700 feet, or 23.7 miles, of drill core samples from the area have been analyzed, with geologists estimating the prospect contains more than 10 million tons of mineable ore.

As reported in the News Tribune in July, Talon officials say the copper and other valuable minerals are about 1,000 to 1,500 feet below the surface and that the mine "will be an underground mine, if it is able to get through Minnesota's exacting permitting process," according to London-based investment analysts Proactive Investments.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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