MAC: Mines and Communities

Michigan Mining Proposal Collapses

Published by MAC on 2007-03-15
Source: Great Lakes United Newsletter

Michigan Mining Proposal Collapses

Between Editions, the Great Lakes United Newsletter

March 2007 The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) overturned its proposed decision to approve a mining application by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company after it was found that key reports criticizing the mine's structural safety were deleted from the public record. The reversal is cause for celebration for those groups fighting the mine, but not for long. The proposal is still active and the DEQ is reviewing the hidden documents. Following the revelation that documents were suppressed, several groups called for the reassignment of Hal Fitch, the DEQ's top mining regulator. Regardless of whether Fitch was aware of the document suppression, the groups contend that sloppy oversight of the proposed sulfide mine has undermined the state's tough new mining laws, put the Upper Peninsula's tourism economy and natural resources at risk, and shattered public confidence in the mining permit process. "Whether or not this inexcusable breach of trust was done with Mr. Fitch's knowledge is beside the point," said James Clift, Policy Director of the Michigan Environmental Council. "It is symptomatic of a relationship Mr. Fitch and his subordinates have with Kennecott that is compromising their ability to make objective decisions regarding this application." The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Michigan Environmental Council, Save the Wild UP and Sierra Club's Michigan chapter, echo Clift's comments. Asking for new leadership on the issue, the groups argue that the Kennecott proposal should restart from the beginning to ensure public confidence and adequate protection of the environment. The overturned decision also comes days before a Canadian firm revealed that it would start exploring for mining sites only miles from the mine proposed by Kennecott. Prime Meridian Resources Corporation hopes to start test drilling soon with results expected by early June. The Kennecott proposal is the first application under the state's new mining law. The law was written to regulate what are expected to be numerous new mining applications in the coming decade - all in the sulfide rock formations that create dangerous battery-acid strength liquid waste laced with toxic heavy metals. Managed improperly, or subject to lax state enforcement, the waste could contaminate groundwater and ruin numerous trout streams that flow into Lake Superior near Big Bay. Impacting not only Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior waters, Mining Watch Canada raised concerns with the DEQ that ore from the proposed mine will be shipped off-site to Sudbury, Ontario for milling and smelting, adding to that city's legacy of contamination from three enormous tailings impoundments. In what appears to be a significant gap in binational oversight, there is no environmental assessment mechanism to assess impacts of the transport, processing and storage of ore from the United States into Canada or visa versa.

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