Acid Mines are Never Safe

Stream Contaminated by Acid Mine DrainageThe root of major dissent to the metallic sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains can be traced to one source – Acid Mine Drainage. This unavoidable and destructive by-product of the sulfide mining process has been deemed one of the most serious threats to water quality by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mining into sulfide ores brings this volatile ore to the surface, crushing it and exposing it to water and oxygen, a dangerous combination that leads to a substance closely associated with battery acid. This acid makes it way through every crack and crevice and ultimately pollutes thousands of miles of rivers and streams every year. It contaminates drinking water and threatens animal and plant species.

In a Wisconsin Engineer story printed in 1997, author Jennifer Schultz included the following statement: “There are no ideal metallic mineral mining sites which can be pointed to as the model approach in preventing acidic drainage industry-wide.” Recognizing the inevitable threat of sulfide mining as fact, the Wisconsin legislature issued a provisional ban on sulfide mining in the state which still stands today.

Sulfide mines differ greatly from the iron mines that now operate in the Upper Peninsula. It is a widely known fact that all sulfide mines produce acid mine drainage, Governor Granholm must deny the permit application and protect the state from the predictable destruction of acid mine drainage and the slippery slope that comes from allowing even one such mine in our water-rich state.

Further reading

What is acid mine drainage? from the US EPA (pdf)

More Facts of Metallic Sulfide Mining from Save the Wild UP.

9 thoughts on “Acid Mines are Never Safe

  1. Excellent job on the website! Good choice of relevant informational material. Thanks for your efforts on this very important subject.

  2. I would like to address these next words directly to those who are in favor of the mine:
    I understand that the mine would be an economic boost to the area, but if you research the facts regarding sulfide mining you will (or should) discover that every sulfide mine is associated with some degree of acid mine drainage. Kennecott, for example, has yet to prove to the public that they can develop a safe (meaning no acid mine drainage and negative environmental effects) sulfide mine. And let me say this: The heavy metals involved in this operation only need to be in small concentrations to negatively affect the overal environmenal health.
    Also, this scenario has the potential to act as a domino effect to some extent. For instance, let’s say the acid first enters the watershed. Then the acid drainage will enter living organisms in the water and enter the root systems of plants, which are eaten by some animals, which are eaten by other animals. The acid also enters the fish inhabiting the water. Over time, the acid will accumulate and increase in concentration in the surrounding living organisms.
    Then, it’s the human’s turn to eat the surrounding fish (and probably some of the other animals as well) in addition to drinking the water with the heavy metals; thus causing an eventual buildup of these heavy metals in people. These heavy metals have been found to cause abnormal physical and mental characteristics in people who ingest this material. I mean those who are in favor of the mine no disrespect; however, I do challenge you to embrace the reality of this situation.

  3. The Michigan economy is hurting, but we need to think long-term. One of the major sources of income for our state has been tourism, and not because people want to see Detroit! People come to Michigan because it’s beautiful, especially the beaches and waterways. We can say that Kennecott has to be responsible for clean-up, but what if it can’t be cleaned up? We can’t let our current financial worries rush us into a potentially irreversible mess. We need to take our time making decisions like this, gathering information and weighing all the potential outcomes (good and bad) before moving forward.

  4. Bryan,
    I agree with you. This is a major issue and I know first hand because I recently purchased a piece of property that is contaminated with AMD. We have been advised not to eat the fish from the pond or let our pets near the water until test can be conducted to determine the degree of contamination. We were told to avoid contact with the orange sludge as it WILL burn the skin. This is a very dangerous substance that has the potential to create damage that can not be undone.

  5. I agree with the fact that its going to be messy, but we also need to think about how the torch lake was back in the 80’s and even before the 80’s. I don’t know how many people actually know the history of the Upper Peninsula.. especially in the Keweenaw. Where most of the mining took place. Think about how the stamp mills used the water from the portage canal.. And then let it go right back in there. ALL mines are never safe.. Kennecott should be held responsible for a total clean up for our area. Regardless of how much its going to cost them, tax the heck out of them as well, and use that money to do things in the UPPER PENINSULA that are actually useful.

    Politically.. I guess is what I’m getting at… is.. The State of Michigan is hurting, and we have a Governor who pays no attention to the Upper Peninsula, it’s always been this way we all know that.. Despite our bad economy.

  6. A nasty acid mine that would not be helpful for long term economic growth in Michigan is not the answer. I think people are smart enough here not to support it. Hopefully. Do you want your kids to live around that crap? Yuck.

  7. We need more photos of previous Kennecott sites. Have caught one now and then but we need a collection site we can send new recruits to, show them the history of this fine lying organization. Where can we find or send photos? anyone? (e-mail me direct if you can, thanks)

  8. If you pollute the place AGAIN (its taken decades for the Keweenaw to recover from the mess of copper mining) then you’ll chase away all the tourists like me who bring our out-of-state dollars into your local economy.

    I understand that more than just the tourism and related industries are needed, but there’s got to be another way to extract the copper at a profit besides in situ acid leaching.

  9. John from the Prairie,

    Kennecott’s proposed mine will not use in situ leach mining.
    It is a proposed hard-rock mining operation of nickel and copper ores that are in a massive sulfide ore body. Simply put, the rock the metals are found in will generate acid when they come in contact with air and water (we have plenty of both here). No acid will be brought in to be used in the mining process.

    I hope you will still consider coming to the UP even if they put the mine in, there is still a lot of beauty in this forgotten peninsula.