Keweenaw Copper: Michigan Tech's Gift to the Governor

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Governor Jennifer Granholm’s residence in Lansing will be brightened by a dramatic specimen of native Keweenaw copper shot through with pistachio-green epidote, a mineral characteristic of the region. Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz and Kathryn Clark, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, presented the specimen to the Governor at the Capitol Wednesday evening.

Geologists believe that the copper specimen presented to the Governor was formed over 1 billion years ago, when molten lava oozed up repeatedly from huge cracks in the earth’s crust and spread out over the region that is now the Keweenaw Peninsula. This series of lava flows was compressed into an enormous trough in which Lake Superior now sits. Then mineral-rich hot water seeped up through the cracks and fissures, depositing great amounts of elemental copper.

The specimen is from the Caledonia Mine in Ontonagon County. It is more than 99 percent pure.

“This specimen, on permanent loan from Michigan Tech’s A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum, is representative of a critical time in Michigan history,” said Mroz. “This massive chunk of copper reminds us of the wealth that emanated from the 11 billion pounds of native copper extracted from the Keweenaw Peninsula from 1845 to 1968.

“Now we are facing another critical time in our history, and this copper is also symbolic of the rich promise of the university that calls the Keweenaw home today,” Mroz added. “Michigan Tech is a world-class research institution whose cutting-edge discoveries can play an important role in revolutionizing the economy of our state, our nation, and the world.”

Michigan Tech was established in 1885 as the Michigan School of Mines, to educate mining engineers for the booming copper mining industry. Now Michigan Tech educates students to create the future through a wide variety of innovations in engineering, technology and science, and it ranks fourth in the state in research funding, which is expected to reach $50 million this year.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.