FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president, email@example.com
Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director, firstname.lastname@example.org (906) 662-9987
Eagle Mine Wants Mineral Lease Under Yellow Dog Headwaters!
MARQUETTE – The Eagle Mine LLC, owned by multinational conglomerate Lundin Mining, is seeking a new mineral lease from the State of Michigan for 40 acres of land (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). The Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) announcement of Lundin’s mineral rights lease application was published on Sunday July 26th, 2015, commencing a legally-required 30-day public comment period.
The targeted land lies three miles west of Eagle Mine’s orebody, and south of the Triple A road. Ecologically, the land ranges from from jack pine and blueberry bushes to inundated wetlands known as the Andersen Creek swamp, critical headwaters of the Yellow Dog River. The DNR lease review acknowledges the Headwaters of the Yellow Dog (Andersen Creek) and noted the possible presence of endangered species and a special conservation area. DNR Fisheries staff recommended “Stipulation 15” be included, minimizing surface disruption. The lead agency reviewer removed Stipulation 15, which would require proper drilling and exploration protocol be followed and approved by the lessor (the state). Multiple reviewers noted the presence of Headwaters, but recommended a “development with restrictions” classification.
“This land is part of a sensitive wetlands complex of more than a thousand acres. Headwaters are where rivers are born! Headwaters are simply not compatible with sulfide mining,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.
Screenshot: Yellow Dog Headwaters, area of proposed mineral lease.
Source: MDEQ, National Wetlands Inventory data.
“Why does the State bother to write a land management plan for this section of the Escanaba River State Forest? Michigan regulators obviously believe that mining exploration is always the most desirable land use — in every situation, no matter how it undermines or jeopardizes our public land, water, forestry, wildlife and fisheries! What is the purpose of a public comment period, if no one at the DNR listens to public comments?” asks Gail Griffith, emeritus professor of Chemistry at Northern Michigan University and SWUP board member.
In 2014, Eagle Mine made a similar request, seeking mineral rights to a parcel of public land along the Yellow Dog River. Together, Save the Wild U.P., Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters called on the State of Michigan to hold a Public Hearing on the proposed lease. The groups asked the DNR to deny Eagle Mine’s mineral lease request, stating, “Metallic mineral lease of this land would serve only the short-term goals of Industry (…) once again, the State of Michigan seems wholly incapable of serving the public trust.” In response, the DNR sent out form letters, and approved the lease without notifying the organizations or individuals who requested a hearing.
“It’s outrageous but true: Part 632 doesn’t restrict one square inch of Upper Michigan from sulfide mining and mineral exploration — including your backyard garden, the headwaters of rivers, or the park where your children play,” says Jeffery Loman, former federal oil regulator.
In 2006, the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) published the Salmon Trout River Watershed Management Plan which included the recommendation to “prohibit sulfide-based mining” (Page 41). “Since the Salmon Trout River and Yellow Dog River are both high quality systems and share a common watershed boundary the SWP recommendation to prohibit sulfide-based mining would hold true for both watersheds,” explained Carl Lindquist, executive director of SWP. “The potential impacts to groundwater, surface water and Lake Superior are simply too great.”
“When will Michigan realize that public lands belong to the public, not private corporations? Leasing this parcel would simply reinforce the perception that the DNR is acting as a land broker for Eagle Mine,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP executive director. “It is 1.5 miles from the McCormick Tract Wilderness and the Yellow Dog Wild and Scenic National River, and surrounded by historic sites like the Nels Andersen homestead, the Bentley Trail, and the Bushy Camp. Eagle Mine is targeting our communal history.”
“It’s no surprise that Lundin is seeking to lease more minerals,” says attorney Michelle Halley. “Save the Wild U.P., the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and others have known that Eagle Mine is just the beginning of a regional mining development strategy. In the long term, the public will pay a high price for mining projects performed with inadequate permitting, monitoring and enforcement.”
“When Eagle Mine’s drill rigs go after new sites, they call it ‘progress.’ I call it Stage 4. When a cancer patient develops a malignant growth some distance from the primary tumor, we say the cancer is spreading, or metastasizing. It’s bad news, with a poor prognosis for the environment.” says Chip Truscon, SWUP board member.
Dave Allen, board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, expressed concerns about the pristine habitat found on these 40 acres. “We at UPEC are against this new mineral lease. The parcel contains Andersen’s Creek, headwaters of the Yellow Dog River, a rather precious stream and prime brook trout habitat, very rich in good macroinvertebrates — benthic bugs like caddis, flies, mayflies and others — and clean water.”
“Much of this land is relatively undisturbed conifer swamp and pristine shrub-sedge meadow,” says botanist Steve Garske. “These headwaters flow into the Yellow Dog River. If Lundin can drill and potentially locate a sulfide mine here, they can do it anywhere. We need to tell the DNR that headwaters are too special to be mined.”
“We urge concerned citizens to tell the DNR to deny this mineral lease application, or hold a public hearing! This proposal won’t stand up to environmental scrutiny. Headwaters should not be mined,” said Maxwell. Public comment is due by August 26th, and can be submitted by email to: Karen Maidlow, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, at email@example.com, or mailed directly to Karen Maidlow, Property Analyst, Minerals Management, DNR, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909.
Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.
Editors: the following maps are available for use with this press release:
ArcGIS Map showing location of proposed mineral lease
ArcGIS Map (interactive map slideshow with detailed views)
Eagle Mine seeks minerals under Yellow Dog Headwaters. Eagle Mine LLC has applied to the State of Michigan to lease mineral rights under 40 acres of public land in the Escanaba River State Forest (NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 8, T50N, R29W, Michigamme Township, Marquette County). This land is part of an extensive Headwater wetlands complex spanning more than 1,000 acres (see National Wetlands Inventory map layers).