MAC: Mines and Communities

Camp to protect Eagle Rock from Kennecott is destroyed

Published by MAC on 2010-06-04
Source: AP, Indian Country Today (2010-05-27)

After Cynthia Pryor was arrested for trespassing on public land that Rio Tinto subsidiary Kennecott plans to mine, a camp was formed on the site to keep vigil. (See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10104).

The camp has recently been broken up, with two arrests. However, the company seems to be trying to keep a low profile as the two arrested were released immediately and one hasn't even been charged yet.

There is a blog called http://standfortheland.com that updates on the situation, and which also has a letter of support that people can write (aimed primarily at locals and US citizens). 

Vigil at Michigan Mine Site Ends With 2 Arrests

By John Flesher

The Associated Press (AP)

27 May 2010

For a month, a small group of American Indians and environmental activists occupied an isolated patch of woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where the world's third-largest mining company is preparing to drill for nickel and copper.

The protesters vowed to stay put, saying the mine would desecrate sacred ground and pollute waters that flow into nearby Lake Superior. But their vigil ended Thursday, as police enforced an order by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. to clear the area and arrested two people on misdemeanor trespassing charges.

"I'm so very disappointed. It's a tragedy," said Laura Nagle, 22, a Northern Michigan University student watching the scene unfold with other mine opponents from a dirt road near the construction site.

Kennecott, owned by London-based Rio Tinto PLC, said calling the police was a last resort after protesters refused several requests to vacate the state-owned property, which the company is leasing for its above-ground buildings and infrastructure. But Kennecott said it was necessary for the safety of the protesters as well as work crews.

"We are relieved that this situation has been resolved safely, peacefully and without incident," general manager Jon Cherry said.

The proposed mine has divided the region, which takes pride in its quiet woods and trout streams but also has a rich mining history and is hungry for jobs. The Upper Peninsula is also home to several Indian tribes; the arrested protesters are members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

Kennecott believes a six-acre underground ore body it discovered in 2002 could yield 250 million to 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper. State regulators issued mining permits in 2007, but the project has been delayed by legal challenges.

Tensions escalated in recent days as crews clearing land and enclosing the property in chain-link fencing moved closer to Eagle Rock, a 60-foot-high outcrop that dominates the mostly flat landscape in the remote Yellow Dog Plains region of Marquette County.


The fight will continue for KBIC

By Greg Peterson

Indian Country Today

21 May 2010

BIG BAY, Mich. - The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council promised it would continue to fight the Kennecott Eagle Minerals nickel and copper mine even if the owner moves the entrance, at a meeting with those defending sacred Eagle Rock May 8.

In mid-April, Kennecott started initial work on its mine - dubbed the Eagle Project - but has reportedly offered to move the mine portal about 100 yards west of Eagle Rock, that has been a site of Ojibwa ceremonies for at least 170 years. Since April 23, American Indians from several tribes and non-Natives have been camping at the base of sacred Eagle Rock to protect it from bulldozers.

"What we are trying to do here is save Mother Earth," KBIC Tribal Council President Warren "Chris" Swartz told campers during an official council meeting in the shadow of Eagle Rock. "Mother Earth is crying for our help.

"We are here today to try to support her (Mother Earth) and to save the fish, the swimmers, the crawlers and the four leggeds and the fliers here. I am really honored to be here (Eagle Rock)."

After a tobacco offering that included praying in all four directions around the encampment's "sacred fire," Swartz said those defending Eagle Rock should never give up their fight and pledged neither would the tribal council.

"Our brothers and our sisters here have been making us aware of Kennecott Minerals Company coming here and starting to mine underneath migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock)."

The future of the protestor's children and their children is what's at stake, said KBIC Tribal Council Vice President Susan LaFernier, who's been fighting the mine for six years.

"I just want to say thank you to you people. It's been a longer journey for a lot of people.

"Thank you for everyone who is protecting the rock and the land and the water and it is for our seventh generations - our next seven generations - that's always been our stand since 2004 when we first opposed the mine in our resolution. May our God and Creator be with you all - to bring peace to you."

KBIC tribal council member Isabelle Helene Welsh thanked the Eagle Rock defenders and praised the non-violent protest.

"My heart is with you, walk in love, walk in peace and wisdom."

Swartz reminded campers that KBIC filed a "lawsuit hoping to overturn the state permit for the nickel and copper mine" because the council believes the project "doesn't meet legal requirements for protecting the environment.

"I am personally not against mining but I am opposed to the sulfide mine process.

"The sulfide mining process, I know for a fact, is going to have some detrimental effects to the environment" including groundwater, nearby streams and the Great Lakes, he said. "Those streams feed into Lake Superior, the largest and most precious body of water in the world."

Holding a ceremonial walking stick, KBIC council member William "Gene" Emery said he's worried about the environmental effects of sulfide mining on fish and drinking water because when "even the dust hits water, that makes your chemicals and that floats out into (Lake Superior)."

It is inevitable that dust will escape from ore moving equipment and from accidents involving the trucks hauling sulfide mine waste, said Emery, the tribal council assistant secretary. The dust is "going to settle on the trees and you are going to get rain and that's going to go into your streams."

Several Eagle Rock defenders briefed the council about the outpouring of support from hundreds of people during the first two weeks bringing food, firewood and other donations. The campers said they are embarrassed to ask for financial support to pay rent and utilities.

KBIC member Glen Bressette, who lives almost two hours from Eagle Rock, said the campers take turns returning home to visit their children.

"I keep my bundles there and bring my physical here," said Bressette, 38, of Harvey, Mich. "When we come here (to Eagle Rock) we call it home too.

"We need other people to help us so we can go back to our families. They need us - we can't do this alone.

"We have all races and walks of life who have come here - all colors, creeds and nations - the same way that our medicine wheel shows us," said Bressette, using his finger to make a circle.

On his knees, Bressette prayed in Ojibwa and spread tobacco on the sacred fire.

"I am offering up our prayers to you and our grandmothers and grandfathers to help us.

"They tell that story about a stick and another stick and another stick and how much stronger it gets as we all blend together and how much strength that brings us. Che megwich for bringing that strength here."

Eagle Rock Activity

May 11 - Woodland Road LLC announced that it withdrew a permit application for a $50 million, 22-mile haul road - paid for by Kennecott Eagle Minerals but to be used by many businesses - that would connect the remote Eagle Mine to an ore processing facility at the former Humbodlt Mill in west Marquette County - thus preventing 100 trucks from being routed daily through Marquette and other cities.

On May 7, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment was prepared to decide whether to issue a permit for the road project. The Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this year filed federal objections to the DNRE issuing a permit for the road involving issues that include wetlands mitigation and possibly using other routes.

May 12 - Kennecott Eagle Minerals and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community officials met to discuss Eagle Rock and an ongoing lawsuit. Both sides declined comment on what happened during the meeting.

May 13 - At KBIC's request, EPA officials from Region 5 in Chicago visited Eagle Rock and its surroundings. Tribal officials declined comment, and an EPA spokesperson said May 17 that she was checking on information that could be released about the visit.

May 15 - A pro-mine ATV rally scheduled for Eagle Rock was scaled back reportedly at the request of Kennecott officials. About 20 ATVs showed up near Eagle Rock and stayed only a few minutes.

May 15 - About 40 people attended a "treaty rights" presentation by several people at Eagle Rock including a Native American activist, who would only identify himself as "Just Another Guy from the Rez." The effects of sulfide mining were outlined by retired iron ore miner Bob Tammen of Duluth, Minn. and mine critic Chuck Glossenger of Big Bay, Mich. A mine spokesman also attending the presentations.

Also, KBIC member and mine opponent Jessica Koski, who addressed Rio Tinto (Kennecott's parent company) annual stockholders meeting in London April 15, returned to the Upper Peninsula from her environmental management master's studies program at Yale University.

May 18 - The Eagle Rock defenders continued erecting a cedar fence around their encampment in response to a fence being constructed by Eagle Project mine officials.

On May 17, Kennecott started erecting a fence on the north and east sides of the Eagle Rock encampment - less than 50 yards from the campers, said American Indian Levi Tadgerson.

"Everyone at Eagle Rock has been working hard to put up our own cedar fence, and Kennecott is just putting their fence up around it," stated a May 18 communique from the campers on standfortheland.com, a blog. "We are calling all friends and concerned citizens to please stop by Eagle Rock. ... we really need you and your support."

"It helps with morale and these are very challenging times," the campers said. "We must stand united and we need lots of people to stand with us."

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