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6.29.2010

4 Quick: What Does CU Stand For?

No secret to some in the Cornell administration (and quite a few folks in northern Wisconsin) – but a mystery to the rest of the Cornell community – when the University and Ezra sold the Wisconsin land and its trees (New York Times reported on May 21, 1902 that Jim Gates bought the last 56,000 acres), it retained the mineral rights to the property: probably not all 500,000 acres but possibly a sizable quantity. [According to a Cornell financial report of the mid-1930s, the administration of the Western Lands was closed in 1935, not 1902.]

What are mineral rights? “It is the right of the owner to exploit, mine, and/or produce any or all of the minerals lying below the surface of the property.”

So what? It’s been 100+ years. Any minerals of value under the surface of this Northern Wisconsin property would have been retrieved years ago, right?”

Ask the people of Ladysmith, Wisconsin and the Kennecott Minerals Company.

Decades after some excellent specimens were first collected (1915) by George Hotchkiss, the "rich" vein of copper, gold and silver was finally mined between 1993 and 1997.

The result: 35-acres of this surface mine yielded approximately 181,000 tons of marketable copper ($3,500/ton), 334,000 ounces of gold ($1,250/oz), and 3,300,000 ounces of silver ($18/oz). The mineral density of the ore was high enough to financially justify shipping the mined ore to other locations for processing.

Current market value of this find (though I acknowledge that these are current, historically high prices, not those from 13 years ago): $1,110,400,000 or $31,725,714 per acre.... if I calculated the prices correctly (help please) of Ag, Au, and (you guessed it) Cu.

And Ladysmith, WI is only 23 miles due north of Cornell, WI.

Ok – now I’m just being annoying – but if Cornell still holds the mineral rights to, say, 25% of the original 500,000 acres, and this land yields a mere one one-hundredth of the Flambeau Mine totals, these holdings would be worth $40 billion.

Game over.

Anyone want to take a few drill core samples in Chippewa, Rusk and Taylor and Dunn counties?

I’m heading back up to northern Wisconsin with a good shovel and the email address of a subsurface geologist from the UW or a researcher from the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.

By the way, the Flambeau mine site set a new (sorry) gold standard for environmental reclamation of the land.

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