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      Eagle Mine sees light at the end of the tunnel

      Rio Tinto reports that construction on the Eagle Mine in northern Marquette County is going smoothly, and production is expected to begin in early 2014. The Rio Tinto president addressed the public Wednesday evening at the Waterfront restaurant in Marquette.

      Adam Burley, President of Rio Tinto, says construction on the Eagle Mine is right on track. The tunnel is now about a mile long and more than 80 percent complete. It will likely reach the ore body in the next several weeks. Ore production is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014.

      "The vision is a very simple one: to build and operate a truly world class, modern nickel and copper mine that we can all be proud of," said Burley.

      Burley also mentioned the County Road 595 project that will make for a direct route from the Humboldt Mill and the Eagle Mine. The Marquette County Road Commission is still going through the permitting phase. Burley said that the road is actually not very cost effective for Rio Tinto, but the project is being pursued so that mine traffic will have a smaller impact on the daily lives of nearby residents.

      The Lake Superior Community Partnership has been a long-time supporter of the mine and decided to hold this meeting along with Rio Tinto to keep the public informed of the progress. So far, the mine has created more than 200 jobs and expects to create another 235 during production. Most of them are local, but some professionals needed to be hired from other parts of the country. The overall economic development with the mine will have an even greater impact beyond direct job creation.

      "Not just jobs and investments, but also the indirect taxes that go to the county and local municipalities that help provide services, so it really is a trickle down effect, and it really does make a win-win for everybody," said Amy Clickner, CEO of the LSCP.

      Republican Senator Tom Casperson has been a supporter of the mine since day one and remains enthusiastic.

      "I've visited the site. Nobody has raised the bar as they have for safety standards and trying to do it right, and that's impressive, and they should be given credit for that," said Senator Casperson.

      Community outreach is an important part of Rio Tinto's operations, and they may hold more public meetings in the future. In the meantime, they encourage everyone to come and tour the facilities.

      "We want the public to know that we're looking out at the horizon. There's light at the end of the tunnel. Production is going to be starting in 2014. This project has been in the area for a very long time now, and it's great to see these next steps get taken and production start soon," said Dan Blondeau, Advisor of Communications and Media Relations.