Slideshow: In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, mining waste threatens Buffalo Reef

A line of carts carrying copper-rich rock waits to move into a stamp mill for the Mohawk and Wolverine mines at Gay, where the rock was crushed to separate out valuable copper.  Mills across the Keweenaw Peninsula generated half a billion tons of black waste sands from this process, depositing it along Lake Superior’s shores. Nearly 23 million tons of waste came from this mill. (Photo Courtesy of Michigan Technological University Archives, Copper Country Historical Collections and Michigan Department of Natural Resources.)

A photo taken from the roof of the Mohawk and Wolverine Mill in 1907, looking at the sand hoisting house and launder. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University Archives, Copper Country Historical Collections and Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Mohawk Mining Co. closed the mill at Gay in 1932. Its ruins sit at the base of this smokestack stretching above the trees. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Graffiti artists have left their mark on the remains of the stamp mill in Gay. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Along the shore at the old Gay stamp mill site: remainders of a wooden dock and about 2.7 million tons of mining waste that have yet to wash into Lake Superior. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

The stamp mill sands contain bits of metals like arsenic and copper. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

Propelled by winds and waves, the stamp sands have been migrating southward. They’ve covered a 5-mile stretch of coastline and about 35 percent of Buffalo Reef, a crucial spawning ground for lake trout and whitefish. (Photo courtesy of Neil Harri and Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Charles Kerfoot, a professor of biological sciences and geological and mining engineering at Michigan Technological University, has been mapping the migration of the stamp sands onto Buffalo Reef. To get video footage of the reef in late July, he tossed into the water a remote-controlled vehicle. To his left: Jamey Anderson, who coordinates Michigan Tech’s marine operations. (Bridge photo by Jim Malewitz)

An aerial view shows a recent dredging operation in progress at the Grand Traverse Harbor. Dredging — removing the stamp sands from the water — is one piece of efforts to protect Buffalo Reef. But officials have yet to decide where to put the dredged material. A multi-agency task force is considering options, and a report is due in October. For now, the material is being returned to the pile at Gay, where it will eventually wash back into Lake Superior unless governments fund a multi-million project to wall-off the pile. (Photo courtesy of Neil Harri and Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

An aerial view of the Grand Traverse Harbor shows stamp sands in the harbor after a late October storm pushed the sands over a retaining wall into the river. The storm undid progress from last year’s round of dredging. (Photo courtesy of Neil Harri and Michigan Department of Resources.)

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Comments

True Yooper
Wed, 09/19/2018 - 5:36pm

The article states that the waste sand is being dredged from Grand Traverse Harbor and being put back into the pile near Gay, MI; Where it will eventually get washed back into lake Superior... What the f@€&, keep your troll waste downstate please! :)

Jim Malewitz
Wed, 09/19/2018 - 6:38pm

Thanks for reading, True Yooper. Just a note: There are two Grand Traverse Bays. The mining waste was originally piled in Gay,  along Lake Superior's Grand Traverse Bay (more specifically 'Big' Traverse Bay). That's not to be confused with Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay.