Class investigates tapping mines for geothermal heat in calumet

Dec 13, 2013 by Dennis Walikainen
Class investigates tapping mines for geothermal heat in calumet
Near C-L-K School, Number 3 Calumet shaft.

In a great example of serendipity, the mineshafts that propelled Calumet to the pinnacle of copper mining could possibly be used once again— thanks to mine water—to heat buildings.

A class at Michigan Technological University has studied the social feasibility of tapping into mine water underneath Calumet for . They're presenting their findings this week at the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw (CLK) School Commons.

Richelle Winkler, assistant professor of social sciences, taught the class of undergraduates and graduate students. She says that they learned much from the project.

"This was a real-world ," Winkler explains. "The students learned a lot about the community: how they work together, how to empower people to ask questions and get excited about a project."

As Winkler's group looks at the social aspects, an Enterprise team is looking at the technical side. That group is advised by Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Resarch Center, which is currently using mine water geothermal heating and cooling.

"So, we have that precedent, too," Winkler says. Her class, however, is focusing on development of consensus and on political issues. For example, "There are 37 shafts in the area, and many believe that the mine water is a 'public-pool resource' that belongs to everyone," in part, she says, because many of the people and their ancestors worked the mines.

"But some of the shafts are on private property, and some are owned by municipalities. So, the question becomes, how do we get access? Who pays for it? How would it work? It's complicated," Winkler points out.

The project also helps celebrate the cultural legacy of the area, Winkler says. Instead of being an environmental problem, the legacy of mining could be used for something to benefit both the community and the environment by lowering energy costs and reducing the carbon footprint.

"We don't, however, tell the community what they should do," she says. "We only hope to encourage discussion, help them think it through, give them insight and some tools."

The community is already using mine for watering the grass at Agassiz Field, CLK's football field.

"There are several key buildings, where we're calculating need to determine the distance to the shafts, including the CLK schools, near Calumet No. 3 shaft," Winkler says. She wants to give the people the information they need and let them decide.

Explore further: Coal mining industry well-equipped for water management

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mining for heat

May 02, 2012

Underground mining is a sweaty job, and not just because of the hard work it takes to haul ore: Mining tunnels fill with heat naturally emitted from the surrounding rock. A group of researchers from McGill University in Canada ...

Mines could provide geothermal energy

Jul 27, 2009

Mine shafts on the point of being closed down could be used to provide geothermal energy to local towns. This is the conclusion of two engineers from the University of Oviedo, whose research is being published ...

TU Delft's promising water-treatment technologies combined

Sep 06, 2012

Thanks to research by Mari Winkler, it should now be possible to integrate two successful TU Delft technologies for the treatment of waste water with bacteria, Nereda and Anammox, into a single plant. On Wednesday 5 September, ...

City heat from ancient mines

Jul 11, 2012

People living in Glasgow could get around 40% of the energy they need to heat their homes and businesses from tapping into the rocks and water in old abandoned mineshafts and other mine workings beneath the ...

Recommended for you

Toolkit for ocean health

54 minutes ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

Tool kit for ocean health

3 hours ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

Researcher studies interactions between land and water

4 hours ago

Early one morning last January, MIT undergraduate Theresa Oehmke was eating breakfast at the Kilauea Military Camp on Hawaii's Big Island when a colleague burst into the room, yelling, "Oh my god, the plume, ...

Geoengineering our climate is not a 'quick fix'

5 hours ago

The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system is not a "quick fix" for global warming, according to the findings of the UK's first publicly funded studies on geoengineering.

US to propose stricter smog standard

7 hours ago

Coming full circle on a campaign promise, the Obama administration will propose Wednesday to reduce the amount of smog-forming pollution allowed in the air, which has been linked to asthma, lung damage and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.