Getting heat from mine H2O

CALUMET – Many of the effects of the post-copper mining era were negative, such as a decline in the local economy and some environmental problems, but one positive effect could come from the water that has collected in unused mine shafts for decades, according to group of students from Michigan Technological University.

During a presentation Thursday in the Commons area at the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw, members of a class taught by Richelle Winkler, Tech assistant professor of social sciences, gave an overview of a research project they conducted starting in September on the social feasibility and implications of using mine water to both heat and cool buildings.

Winkler said eight students worked on the project, five undergrads and three graduate students, as well as Calumet mayor Dave Geisler, representing Main Street Calumet.

During her introduction of the presentation, Winkler said the research wouldn’t answer all questions, but the main purpose was to get a discussion about the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal uses going in the community.

“Maybe this will start a conversation that you all might want to continue,” she said.

Winkler said the research project was suggested by members of Main Street Calumet.

Giving the presentation were students Gabriela Shirkey and Carrie Karvakko.

Interviews were conducted with 16 residents, Karvakko said, and tours were conducted of many buildings which might benefit from geothermal technology, including the Calumet Theatre, the Calumet Colosseum, the Keweenaw National Historical Park and the schools.

“This was a very long process,” she said.

Karvakko said getting heat from the mine water involves pumping it from the mine and running it through a heat exchanger to extract the heat. After going through the heat exchanger, the water is sent back into a shaft, either the one it came from or another nearby shaft.

“This is not a new technology,” she said.

One local entity currently using geothermal energy with mine water is the Tech Keweenaw Research Center near the Houghton County Memorial Airport, Karvakko said.

The tour of Calumet was important for preparing the report, Karvakko said. The heating needs for various buildings were examined,