2017-04-27 / News

It’s Quiet at EUP Graymont Mining Sites, Awaiting Upturn in World Limestone Market

By Stephen King

Things are mostly quiet at the proposed new mining sites of the Graymont Rexton Project.

Limited mining has taken place, and some testing has been done, but the mining company is waiting for favorable market conditions before doing much more work at the Eastern Upper Peninsula sites. The project was always meant to be long term.

Roughly two years after the Michigan Department of Natural Resources agreed to transfer land to Graymont, most of the land still as it was before the Rexton Project began.

The land is divided into five sections. One is the site of the old “Hendricks Quarry,” a former limestone quarry. The largest section is around and under the village of Rexton, intended for an underground operation. Next, there is an area set aside for “operations,” where a proposed processing plant will be built. Then, there is a narrow strip of land heading east from the proposed plant site. And finally, another smaller area around the Wilwin Camp, a retreat that had been operated by the American Legion and used by veterans in transition from battle to home.

One reason things are quiet is a decline in the price of limestone and related products on the world market. While Graymont is still moving ahead, the sense of urgency that was there is no longer present. When this project was first talked about, then-Project Manager Bob Robison said, “This is a 100-year project. We are looking at being here at least that long.”

At the time, Graymont gave a timetable in which the proposed processing plant may not be built for 30 to 50 years, depending on the market. When the “Rexton Project” was first approved, the market for limestone and related products was very good, however, with a softer market, the company is no longer looking at an immediate start.

Graymont spokesperson Daryl Browning said, “We’re not going anywhere. We are still here and still moving forward.”

Over roughly the past year, Mr. Browning said, Graymont has done some limited mining at the old Hendricks Quarry, done some more testing at the Wilwin site, and worked on the dock at Sand Products in Epoufette, from where the stone is to be shipped.

As for mining, last summer, some blasting was done and the rock trucked to Trout Lake for shipment and testing. That plan fell through, however, and the rock ended up being trucked back to the quarry.

On a positive note, Graymont reports nobody complained about the blasting. Notices announcing the time of blasting were posted.

A processing plant and underground mining remain in the future. For the underground mine, the state retained almost all of the surface rights and control.

Regarding the Wilwin Property, Mr. Browning said the veterans group accepted a deal that gave them a similar facility in Lower Michigan. In the meantime, he said, “We are working with some timber harvesters at the moment, and we are letting the Boy Scouts and school groups use the facility….We have no plans to demolish the [Wilwin] Lodge. As we harvest the timber, we are leaving a buffer zone around the lodge and that area.”

At the dock at Sand Products in Epoufette, he said, “We have done some work there but, at the moment, we have no plans to do anything in the near future.”

“Right now,” he said of Graymont, “we are still working on some of the permits and studies, and that is moving along. Also, last year, we drilled 14 holes. This was for testing and assessment. We were looking for the quality and quantity of the stone. We have had very positive results.”

Graymont’s Community Development Fund will accept applications for its annual grants during May, June, and July. Grants will be given in the fall. The grant is administered by Lake Superior State University.

“Graymont is the second largest limestone producer in the world,” Mr. Browning said. “We are not going anywhere. The world uses a lot of products that are made from lime, and we expect the market to grow stronger again. And when it does, we will be ready.”

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