EMILY - It was a full house Tuesday night at Emily City Hall as Crow Wing Power made its pitch to the city council for a proposed manganese mine operation in the city.
More than 25 people filled the city council chamber and spilled out into the hallway to listen to Mike Zipko, of Goff & Howard Inc. and spokesman for Cooperative Mineral Resources, a subsidiary of Crow Wing Power created for the manganese project; and Brad Moore, a senior adviser at Barr Engineering Co.; give a presentation on the proposed manganese mining project.
Emily currently doesn't allow mining and its ordinance would need to be amended to do so. Tuesday's presentation to the council was informational but as the project progresses there are expected to be several public hearings.
"You better believe it," Mayor George Pepek said when asked by an audience member if there would be a chance for public input later. "This is just the first step, seeing what's there. We have a lot to look at."
Zipko said the manganese deposit is the largest in North America and is located on 5 acres of a 12-acre site purchased by Cooperative Mineral Resources about a half mile off Highway 6 between Ruth and Anna lakes.
"It's very valuable and unique because it's in a small place and it's easy to get to," Zipko said. "It's a significant amount of manganese on a small site."
Zipko said there will be no open mine pits or chemicals used to extract the manganese. Instead, wells will be drilled and high-pressure groundwater pumped to recover the manganese. The water will be filtered and returned back into the ground. The manganese recovered will be processed in Coleraine.
"We looked for ways that are environmentally friendly," Zipko said.
At anyone one time there would be only a few wells in operation, with drilling 200-400 feet down into the ground, Moore said. The operation wouldn't be visible from Highway 6 and the slurry would be contained.
Zipko stressed the proposal first needs to be proved feasible, environmentally and technologically.
This spring Cooperative Mineral Resources intends to work with the DNR, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on an environmental worksheet. Groundwater in and around the site also will be tested. Once full operations start, the site would continue to be monitored by state agencies.
If the plan meets environmental standards and the city of Emily amends its ordinance to allow mining, a demonstration well would be drilled to determine if pressurized-water extraction of manganese works.
"Every question you can think of has got to be addressed before we can move forward," Moore said.
If the demonstration works, commercial extraction could start in about two years and the project is estimated to bring in $20 million to $25 million in tax revenue, Crow Wing Power said.
Zipko said Crow Wing Power pursued the purchase of the property because several foreign investors had shown interest. Crow Wing Power, he said, wanted to protect local interests.
After the presentation, several Emily residents said they appreciated that Crow Wing Power would be the responsible party behind the mining.
"It's going to be restrictive no matter who is doing it," Lovell Baker said. "I feel a lot better about that than a New York mining conglomerate or a foreign country coming in here."
Steve Blomberg, who lives about a quarter of a mile away from the proposed mining site, said he's not concerned about the operation. He said when the site was drilled in the 1990s he had his water tested and it had no effect on the quality.
"It's going to be done right I believe," Blomberg said. "I don't think we're going to have any problems there."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.