Rally planned in Michigan to protest state backing of sulfide "acid" mine

by Greg Peterson
15 December 2007

Michigan top environmental watchdog agency sells out pristine U.P. by giving green light to controversial sulfide mine

Environmental groups organize Monday rally in Marquette to oppose state's decision: "It ain't over til' its over!" - seven environmental groups issue joint statement and join forces with pledge to keep fighting project

"Acid mine" opposed by American Indian tribes, environmental groups and many others


Friday, Dec. 14, 2007 - a day that will live in infamy in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The state of Michigan friday handed a huge defeat to American Indian tribes, environmental groups and others who have actively opposed a controversial sulfide mine that the Kennecott Minerals Company plans to build in the pristine Yellow Dog Plains near Lake Superior.

"The Department of Environmental Quality announced today its decision to approve a series of permits to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to conduct mining operations at the proposed Eagle Project Mine near Marquette," read a press release by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Mine opponents have said they will file a lawsuit - possibly seeking an injunction or other actions to stop the project.

Save the Wild UP - one of the longtime opponents of the sulfide mine - has announced a rally on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007 to protest the state's decision to approve the mine permits.

Seven environmental groups issued a joint statement announcing the fight is not over.

"We are extremely disappointed that after all the work which went into crafting the law governing non-ferrous mining in Michigan that the DEQ has chosen to simply ignore key components of that law," said Anne Woiwode, state director of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

"They've granted Kennecott a permit which clearly doesn't even meet the intent, let alone the letter of the law," Woiwode said.

National Wildlife Federation attorney Michelle Halley said she and other opponents are currently considering a variety of administrative and court actions.

"We need time to review the final permit conditions and will proceed after that," Halley said.

The mine will remove nickel and other minerals from the ground - leaving behind sulfuric acid as a nasty byproduct. That has caused many to call the project an "acid mine."

The mine must still get the approval of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Michigan DNR - the sister to the MDEQ - is expected to give its approval, however critics hope the EPA will not rubber stamp the project.

In gushing over the Kennecott proposal, Michigan's top environmental protector said the international mining company "met the high standard set by Michigan's environmental laws."

However, critics say the truth is just the opposite: Michigan law have not kept up with the new technology proposed by Kennecott and other mining companies.

"This has been one of the most thorough reviews of an application ever done by this agency," said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester.

Opponents fear the mine will open the floodgate to similar proposals across northern Michigan and even encourage the opening of uranium mines.

The Eagle Mine, which could begin to open in the spring of 2008, will tunnel below a prime trout stream - the Salmon-Trout River - that feeds Lake Superior.

One geologist's study expresses concern the river could collapse into the mine thus polluting the entire Great Lakes. A state Michigan employee left that study out of a report on the proposed project leading to charges of a cover up - but the state investigated itself - and decided the oversight was accidental.

The mine proposal comes from the Kennecott Minerals Corporation - an international mining company with one of the worst environmental records. A similar Kennecott Mine in Wisconsin continues to pollute and has left the site unusable.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm - a democrat - refused to fight the mine proposal apparently because of the state's terrible economy.

However, critics say the short-term jobs and long-term environmental impact makes the mine a poor trade for a mere bump in the economy. Critics say Granholm's silence is reminiscent of former Republican Michigan Governor John Engler who supported all business proposals no matter what the future cost.

Among those opposing the mine are U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-MI, of Menominee:

"Sulfide mining, like that of the Yellow Dog mining project, may create potentially irreversable environmental damage to the region and lasting health ailments to area residents," said U.S. Congressman Stupak. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community President/CEO Susan LaFernier said the tribe continues to closely monitor the Kennecott Minerals Co. Eagle Project in the Yellow Dog Plains.

"Our tribal cultural committee has been very involved with it (Eagle Project) and we're going to continue to do what we can (to halt it)," Keweenaw Bay Indian Community President/CEO Susan LaFernier told the daily Mining Gazette of Houghton, MI..

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) strongly opposes "acid mine" on the Yellow Dog Plains because sulfide mining tramples ceded territorial rights and the treaties of 1842 and 1856.

The Opposition:

Current opposition is becoming more and more widespread as Michigan's people hear about the trade-off of their U.P. and waters for 75 or so jobs.

U.P. groups consist of local grassroots/community citizens, the Huron Mountain Club (HMC) and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC).

The tribe's hard stand that sulfide mines, and this particular mine on the Yellow Dog Plains, impose on their ceded territorial rights and the treaties of 1842 and 1856.

National/State environmental groups that participated in the development of the new law, have come out in opposition to this project on the Yellow Dog Plains and include: National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club, National Trout Unlimited, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and Clean Water Action.

They have retained hydrologists, geophysicists, AMD experts, mining engineers, botanists, birding/macroinvertibrate/plant scientists, water chemists, etc., as experts in this issue.


Link to the entire press release from the seven environmental groups:

Other links:

KBIC oppose mine: http://www.theminingnews.org/news.cfm?newsID58

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) members testify against mine: http://www.keweenawnow.com/views/ted_soldan_deq_06_04/ted_soldan_deq.htm

KBIC tribe cultural committee watches mine process http://www.savethewildup.org/alerts/?idA8

American Indian Tribes against mine: http://www.northwoodswild.org/newspro/viewnews.cgi?id�ZkpAZpZkdXGKQtlm



Link to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality press release announcing why it wants an "acid mine" built in the Upper Peninsula: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,1607,7-135--181926--,00.html



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