Crow Wing Power on Thursday, June 6, announced it reached terms with North Star Manganese Inc., a U.S.-based mineral resource company, to lead the evaluation of the electric cooperative's manganese site near Emily.

Crow Wing Power acquired the mining rights of the manganese deposit in 2008 and has been advancing the project during the past 10 years through testing, exploration drilling and laboratory work. The cooperative has been searching for a partner with the expertise and the investment capital to develop a financially viable and safe mining operation.

"It took a lot of research, hard work and due diligence, but we found the right partner to move this project forward," stated Bruce Kraemer, CEO of Crow Wing Power, in a news release. "We are excited about the potential of this investment to produce a strong financial return for the cooperative and its members."

North Star Manganese was formed and is funded to evaluate and advance potential manganese projects in North America. Crow Wing Power's news release stated executives with North Star Manganese see good potential in the manganese site near Emily, which is believed to hold the largest and highest-grade manganese deposit in North America. Manganese is an important mineral in the burgeoning battery market for electric cars and electronic devices.

"The demand for manganese is only going to increase as battery demand for electric vehicles and other applications for the renewable energy industry continues to soar in the years ahead," stated Henry "Rick" Sandri, North Star Manganese CEO, in the release. "The deposit in Minnesota could become the first major U.S. supplier of primary manganese and play a significant role in lowering the cost of battery materials in the future."

Talks between the companies began last year, but gained significant momentum over the past three months, Kraemer said. On Monday, the basic terms of the partnership were approved by Crow Wing Power Board of Directors through its governing role over Cooperative Mineral Resources, a for-profit subsidiary of Crow Wing Power that oversees the Emily mining project on behalf of the cooperative.

North Star Manganese Inc. will undertake a technical and economic assessment of the historical work, technology and site during the next four months. Once those steps are completed, the company will work with Crow Wing Power leadership to determine when and how the project should be developed.

"We made this investment for the long-term benefit of Crow Wing Power and its members," stated Bob Kangas, president of the Crow Wing Power Board of Directors, in the release. "This is a big step forward for the project, and we expect it will benefit our members for years to come."

The announcement follows eight tumultuous months for Crow Wing Power after the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article Aug. 31 pointing to possible impropriety by co-op officials. This piece shed light on a royalty agreement signed Nov. 20, 2008, that stipulates three executives from Crow Wing Power-Kraemer, former Chief Operating Officer Doug Harren and former Chief Financial Officer Don Nelson-retain royalty interests to the manganese deposit by Emily.

Subsequently, several people have been critical of Crow Wing Power, claiming lack of transparency by administrators and the board; have called for an external audit of the company; and have threatened legal action against the electric co-op claiming impropriety regarding past business dealings and management of the company.

About Crow Wing Power

Crow Wing Cooperative Power and Light Co. was founded in 1937 to deliver reliable and safe electricity to homes, cabins, farms and businesses throughout Crow Wing, Cass and Morrison counties in central Minnesota. As a cooperative, Crow Wing Power is owned by its 38,000 members and governed by an elected board of directors. For more information, visit www.cwpower.com.

About North Star Manganese

North Star Manganese is a battery minerals company focused on the exploration and development of manganese minerals critical to the rechargeable battery market and energy storage sector. The company is focused on developing its high-quality portfolio of assets located in mining-friendly jurisdictions, the release stated.