Officials at Cliff's Natural Resources are no strangers to mine tours.
On Friday, a group of teachers got hands-on learning experience they can take back to the classroom. The typical tour shows the Empire and Tilden mines at work, but this tour also had another focus: the process of reclamation.
"Reclamation is required by our operating permit, so we have to make sure that as we progress in our mining operations, we are making our best attempt to restore countryside or the area in which we're mining, back to somewhat of a natural state," said Michael Korvela, an environmental technologist with Cliff's.
Cliff's Natural Resources has a footprint of about 20,000 acres in Marquette County. The reclamation process covers about 70 to 100 acres of land annually. During the process, paper residual is added to the benches of the pit. This allows for trees and grass to eventually grow, restoring land to its natural state. Officials say it's not an easy process, but one well worth it.
"Planting grasses and trees around our property is very important for the community that surrounds us and also for us as a company," said Cliff's District Manager Jennifer Huetter.
But this tour has another perk. Dozens of teachers can learn about the project and take it all back to the classroom.
"Being able to take them to an active reclamation site, they got to see the full circle of mining, and so it's a really good opportunity for them, and they can share that with the kids in the classroom," Huetter said.
Reclamation will continue for the duration of mine life. For the Empire Mine, that's early 2015. The Tilden Mine has a life expectancy of more than 30 years.