Dispatches from the Road: Mining Country Institute, Day 1 Recap

Mining Country Fellow Christy George talks with Cliffs Natural Resources' Bill Hemmila in front of a mega truck. (Photo IJNR) IRONWOOD, Mich – The tweets said it all.

IJNR Mining Institute fellows took to the Twitter back-channel Wednesday to express their impressions of the underground Lundin Eagle Mine and Cliffs Natural Resources’ Empire and Tilden open-pit mines – and make a few comments about their traditional miner lunch.

(You can follow the light-starved, ore-dust-breathing, pasty-eating journalists on Twitter by following the hashtag #ijnr_mining)

Although our @ijnr_connect started things simply enough with a photo and this tweet: First stop for #ijnr_mining, we've got hard hats & steel-toed boots & ready to tour Lundin's Eagle mine! pic.twitter.com/akMnihWad5, lunchtime on the bus really got the journos chattering online.

Katie Foody ( @katiefoody ) let everyone know the group was headed to a Marquette hot spot: #pasty #ijnr_mining @ Jean Kay's Pasties & Subs http://instagram.com/p/dSML30KzAn/

Soon after, Kate Golden (@wiswatchkate )responded, tongue in cheek: To what extent were the dangers of mining, historically, due to pasty coma? #ijnr_mining pic.twitter.com/4tGNBPQCw0

Later, when visiting a mine where the agreement to visit also included a prohibition against photographs on site, Mike Scott (@MikeScottNews) checked in: The Cliffs Natural Resources mine in Michigan's #UP Is 50 years old and 1200+ feet deep - but no photos allowed #ijnr_mining

Kate Golden also weighed in again: What an open pit iron mine looks like when you can't take pictures. Empire Mine, Mich. #ijnr_mining pic.twitter.com/l4QwjNIC0Z

IJNR CEO Dave Spratt (@IJNR_davespratt )also commented on the mine’s future plans – but was allowed to post a photo: Cliffs NR's Empire Mine due to close in 2014, but reclamation plan 'still in works.' #ijnr_mining pic.twitter.com/XrkTV3L6Yp

Adam Hinterthuer, director of programs for IJNR (@ijnr_connect ), was also allowed a photo of journalists talking with a mine official, and tweeted: Great start for #ijnr_mining! Here Christy George talks w/ Cliffs NR's Bill Hemmila in front of Mega Truck! pic.twitter.com/LN7hKYgU60

There was little in the way of tweeting on the visit to the Lundin’s Eagle Mine – internet reception is a little challenging when you’re descending hundreds of feet into the earth. But Kristofor Husted (@krishusted) shot off this one – and a Vine video – just before descent: We're going down, down, down, down (into the mine) #ijnr_mining https://vine.co/v/hez0HUeljKr


Eagle Mine

Journalists met with Dan Blondeau of Lundin and other geologists and engineers in offices at the mine before the tour.

There is no disputing the monetary value of the Eagle Mine. Last month, the Canadian mining company, Lundin, bought the mine and its accompanying Humboldt Mill from Rio Tinto for $325 million, and expects to spend another $400 million in the next year to bring it to full capacity extracting copper, nickel and other precious metals by the end of 2014. Proponents tout the mine’s job creation in an economically challenged region: more than 500 construction workers will build it and as many people are expected to operate it through 2023. But others argue the sulfide mining process could create sulfuric acid as a byproduct, endangering the ecologically and culturally sensitive Yellow Dog Plains. Cliffs Cliffs Natural Resources has been mining in the UP since 1848. It now operates theEmpire and Tilden open-pit mines that, for the better part of a half-century, have filled train cars headed to Marquette with millions of tons of iron pellets that are then shipped on freighters to steel manufacturers around the Great Lakes. Together the mines employ about 1,600 people with jobs that start at $23 an hour plus benefits. But these mines won’t yield indefinitely. Empire may be shuttered by 2015, and Tilden is expected to be exhausted in another 30 years.