Day 3: Houghton Michigan “All Mine”

July 11, 2016

Hello, this is Lori Danz, Deborah Campbell, and Ashlee Giordano.  Today we docked at Houghton, Michigan!  Our offshore expedition was along the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Dr. Charles Kerfoot, Michigan Technological University (Charlie), a biologist/geologist led us on a tour showing us firsthand the impact of copper stamp mining during the 20th century. Copper stamp mining is a process that uses a huge press called a stamp to crush the rock into little pieces in order to remove the copper.  The pictures below include a stamp, stamp sands, and the platforms it would be placed on.Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 3.00.13 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 3.00.43 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 3.01.17 PM

The dilemma from the mining is the massive amount of stamp sands leftover from the mining process that surround the shorelines of the peninsula. Geological effects include, being washed ashore from the violent wave action, washing over retaining walls, and blocking inlets. Biological effects include killing the organisms at the bottom of the lake (benthos) due to the copper solution. The fish depend on benthos for their food supply. This also affects the fisheries industry, which in turn causes a huge economic impact. The picture below shows the migration of the stamp sand onto the native beach sand.

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The question we had as a group was “what can we do to reverse the ecological and geological problems the stamp mining has caused?” Suggestions include; to dredge out the areas blocking boat traffic, build a retaining wall against the pile, and remove the sands all together. Scientists have gotten together with the Army Corp of Engineers. The question is,  “how will funding be obtained for this major project?”

As we travel back to Lake Superior we will be stopping at several locations to collect samples for our research. The samples include water quality, native organisms, and invasive organisms. The stops include, Portage Lake, Keweenaw, and Porcupine Mountains.


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