LONDON, ENGLAND – Four community leaders took their opposition to the proposed Upper Peninsula sulfide mine to the United Kingdom today when each spoke at the annual meeting of London-based Rio Tinto, the mining giant and parent company of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.
Before a gathering of thousands, Susan LaFernier, vice president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, was joined by Cynthia Pryor, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve; Fran Whitman, Friends of the Land of Keweenaw; and Gabriel Caplett, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery. Each possesses either a share of stock or a proxy allowing them a voice at the meeting.
“We hope to bring an understanding to the Rio Tinto board of directors and shareholders that the citizens of our region and across the state of Michigan do not support their sulfide mining venture on the Yellow Dog Plains,” Pryor explained in an interview just days before the meeting. “We will present them with every citizen and group resolution or petition signed in opposition to this mine.”
In her presentation, LaFernier will explain the tribe’s sense of responsibility for human health, air, water, land and cultural resources, including Eagle Rock, a location of spiritual importance to Native Americans in the region.
“I will inform the Rio Tinto board about our rights as written in the 1842 and 1854 treaties with the United States. These are rights we have always had as first owners of the land,” the tribal official explained. KBIC has opposed the mine since 2004, when the Tribal Council adopted a resolution in opposition to the project.
“The Rio Tinto board should understand that the opposition is not a few radicals, as they have been led to believe, but a large and well-organized coalition involving thousands of people across the state,” Pryor said.
Caplett says the scope of Kennecott’s plans for the Upper Peninsula demands action. “Rio Tinto has multiple projects planned for our water-rich area. These projects would affect the Great Lakes, which contains roughly one-fourth of the world’s freshwater. Other companies are planning metallic mineral projects, as well as uranium operations, and are encouraged by weak new mining laws that were heavily influenced by Rio Tinto’s agenda.”
The message of the Upper Peninsula foursome wasn’t the only one heard in opposition to Rio Tinto projects throughout the world. Activists from Argentina and West Papua also appealed to shareholders to take a closer look at projects in their respective countries.
Following the Rio Tinto annual meeting, LaFernier spoke on behalf of the group at a public meeting hosted by Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Centre.