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New estimates of precious metals near Ely could surpass $100 billion

A mining company exploring copper and nickel deposits southeast of Ely will update its estimate later this month. Twin Metals has drilled more than 400 holes as it puts together a picture of the deposits. One industry expert tells MPR it's already clear there's enough precious metal to keep mines busy for 60 years. The debate over whether to issue environmental permits is in the early stages, though, and any mines are still years away.
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The copper and nickel contained in the rocks southeast of Ely has already been described as a "monster deposit" by the mining industry. When Twin Metals issues a new estimate of just how precious those metals are, the figure seems likely to exceed its previous number of $100 billion. MPR watched as the company tested a rock sample from one of more than 400 holes it has drilled.

There's no guarantee the minerals will ever be mined, though. Some of the most serious concerns involve the sulfide that's also contained in those rocks. That sulfide creates sulfuric acid when it's exposed to air or water. Managing the acid is one of the issues that will be part of the environmental permitting process, which is still in its early stages.

The Minnesota DNR looked this summer at the potential and the risks of new mines. MPR offered this primer on the issue.

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