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      Panel of experts discuss U.P. mining and its future

      The topic of mining remains a big story in the U.P. Friday's panel of experts at NMU outlined three significant up-and-coming mining sites.

      The three points Kennecott Eagle Mine President Adam Burley said he wanted to get through to the public were clear: maximize reputation, optimize value and utilize growth.

      "I am an optimist so I do believe in the potential of the area to further nickel, copper deposits, hence the vision," said Burley.

      With Burley were Dave Anderson with Orvana Resources--Copperwood Project and Mick Lawler with Hudbay Minerals.

      Mediator Don Ryan didn't wait long to ask the pressing question: How much investment does each company foresee before production can be seen?

      "$469 million," Burley said.

      "$210 million," said Anderson.

      "$240 million," said Lawler.

      It's a lump sum of money that the companies hope will pay off if the value of the minerals remains high. With the global demand for copper already met in other continents, Anderson stressed the importance of keeping mining alive in the Upper Peninsula.

      "When we say no to a mine in the U.P., we're saying yes to a mine in some other part of the planet, probably a part of the planet that doesn't have the same environmental stand, and then we complain about atmospheric deposition of contaminants that land in Lake Superior," Anderson said.

      Anti-mining groups criticized Rio Tinto's handling of taxpayers money.

      "$720 million in stimulus went to Rio Tinto. Our tax dollars, they're not even going to come to spending," an outraged citizen said before being cut off by Ryan.

      "We didn't ask you to come give us a speech, sir. If you don't have a question, please sit down," said Ryan.

      Burley did not respond to the comment, but Daniel Blondeau, an advisor of Communications and Media Relations for Kennecott Eagle Minerals, e-mailed the following response:

      "Rio Tinto is investing $469 million in the Eagle Project, an underground nickel-copper mine in Marquette County. There has been no use of tax payer dollars or stimulus funds to develop the Eagle Project."When asked about safe mining, Lawler credited the incentive to investors.

      "Investors demand the best, so there's no way we're going to mine irresponsibly in an unsustainable fashion because investors just demand that you do, and that's why management systems are set up," Lawler added.

      As we know, Rio Tinto's Kennecott Eagle Mine is further along in production. Burley said they expect operation to begin in 2013.