370 Jobs for Gogebic & Marquette Counties

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) today announced the awarding of state transportation economic development grants that will bring 370 new jobs to Gogebic and Marquette counties. Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) Category A grants totaling $4,010,371 will leverage more than $431,000,000 in private investment at a private/public ratio of 107-to-1.

“These grants will bring about road improvements that will have a major economic impact on communities in the western Upper Peninsula ,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “MDOT is pleased to partner with local road agencies to bring new industries and new jobs to Gogebic and Marquette counties.”

“Projects such as these are critical to economic development in the Upper Peninsula , and MDOT should be commended for its vision and commitment to them,” said Sen. Tom Casperson. “These projects serve as an example of the focus and partnership that we need to advance job growth opportunities in the U.P. through the strategic use of our natural resources.”

“Transportation economic development funding makes it possible to leverage private investment to support economic development and ramp up employment. It has been rewarding to work with the state on projects so critical to the Upper Peninsula ,” said Rep. Matt Huuki. “I want to thank the administration for being so responsive and committed to the economic needs of Gogebic County .”

“I am happy to see that progress is being made on this project in Marquette County ,” said Rep. Steve Lindberg. “Not only will the quality of the roads be increased, but much needed jobs will be brought to the region.”

In Gogebic County, Orvana Resources US Corp., a subsidiary of Orvana Minerals, is a global gold and copper mining company. It is proposing to locate a new copper mining operation and ore-processing facility, known as the Copperwood Project, in Ironwood and Wakefield townships. Sixty jobs will be transferred to the facility and 196 new jobs will be created.

The copper ore concentrate produced by the facility must be shipped immediately to reduce oxidation and a loss in value. This requires a route built to carry heavy commercial traffic year-round to avoid the need to stockpile the copper ore concentrate, haul reduced loads and add substantially to transportation costs. Access to the project site is via County Road (CR) 519, which is currently not built to all-season standards. In addition, a bridge over Jackson Creek is deteriorated and in need of rehabilitation.

The proposed work will upgrade CR 519 to all-season status, preserve the Jackson Creek Bridge , improve drainage along the roadway, and increase safety for employee and commercial traffic.

The estimated cost of these transportation improvements is $3,502,225, including $2,311,380 in state Category A TEDF funds, $841,095 from Orvana Minerals and $349,750 from the Gogebic County Road Commission.

In Marquette County, Michigan Iron Nugget is a joint venture between Cliffs Natural Resources, Inc., the largest producer of iron ore pellet in North America , and the Kobe Steel Group. It plans to produce high-content iron nuggets using iron ore concentrate without a pelletizing process. The product will be sold as a basic raw material for the iron and steel industry. The company will invest approximately $280 million in new equipment and buildings and create 114 new jobs.

The entrance to the new facility will be located in Tilden Township on CR 476. While output will be shipped by rail, raw materials necessary for the mine’s production will arrive by freighter to the city of Marquette . From Marquette , the materials will be shipped by truck to the facility, adding a significant amount of commercial and employee traffic to both local and state roads. In addition, trucks servicing the facility will be subject to seasonal weight restrictions on a portion of the planned route.

The Marquette County Road Commission and MDOT will deliver several improvements that will add to all-season capabilities, improve safety and increase capacity. The proposed projects include:

CR 476 and CR 565: Employee and commercial entrances to the new development will be located on CR 476, approximately 2 miles west of CR 565. These roads are currently subject to seasonal weight restrictions. To accommodate the new development, the road commission will widen existing roadways to increase the strength of the base, add new culverts and improve safety.

M-35 at CR 492: M-35 is the major north-south route from Marquette to the new mine entrance. Currently, the north and south legs of the M-35/CR 492 intersection are offset, requiring stop signs on M-35 to allow through-traffic on the county road. This requires traffic on M-35 to stop for traffic on CR 492 and make multiple turns to continue north or south. The MDOT Superior Region will align M-35 and relocate the stop signs on M-35 to CR 492, improving traffic flow, increasing safety and saving fuel for all drivers by eliminating unnecessary stops and turns.

M-35 at the Empire Mine entrance: Vehicles traveling north on M-35 and turning into the mine currently must wait for opposing traffic. Northbound through-traffic traveling north is required to stop and wait for vehicles making turns. Currently, many drivers are using the road shoulder to avoid the wait. With the increase in traffic from the new facility, which is south of Empire Mine, this situation is likely to worsen. To increase safety and promote a smoother traffic flow, the MDOT Superior Region will install a northbound passing lane.

“We applaud MDOT for approving grant funding for improvements that will assist in the Cliff Iron Nugget project in Tilden Township ,” said Amy Clickner, chief executive officer, Lake Superior Community Partnership. “We have been working with Cliffs and local partners on this project and look forward to the additional jobs and investment in Marquette County .”

“Our road agency is excited to partner with Michigan Iron Nugget and MDOT to improve portions of CR 565 and CR 476 to our all-season trucking standard,” said James Iwanicki, engineer-manager, Marquette County Road Commission. “This improvement will have a positive impact for the company, logging, and the public traveling in Marquette County .”

The estimated cost of these transportation improvements is $3,073,991, including $1,698,991 in state Category A TEDF funds, $925,000 from Cliffs Natural Resources, $70,000 from the Marquette County Road Commission and $380,000 from the MDOT Superior Region.