The Daily Mining Gazette | November 6, 2013
By Garrett Neese - DMG writer (email@example.com)
HOUGHTON – Despite the economic benefits of mining, the instability and other drawbacks mean the western Upper Peninsula is better off looking elsewhere for prosperity.
That conclusion was reached by Thomas Power, who presented the results of a recent study on the economic impact of copper mining Tuesday night in the Upper Peninsula. Power, a research professor and former economics department chair at the University of Montana, prepared the report for Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, an environmental advocacy organization.
Power appeared at Michigan Technological University Tuesday as part of its Green Lecture Series.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Thomas Power, a research professor and former economics department chair at the University of Montana, delivers his talk “The Economic Anomaly of Mining: Treasure and Tears” at Michigan Technological University Tuesday night.
In his report, he argues the western U.P. should concentrate on “economic gardening” – supporting start-up and existing businesses – and protecting and enhancing environmental amenities and other “quality of life” assets.
Power said he doesn’t have any animosity toward mining. He came from a metal mining family, and spent the first 18 years of his life falling asleep to the “soft thump” of the Bay View Rolling Mill in Milwaukee. But in many cases, the drawbacks of mining outweigh the positives.
Mining grew popular because of some very real economic benefits: the ability to extract valuable minerals, the high wages for workers – at times, averaging 40 percent higher the average working wage – and the tax revenues for municipalities.
However, any positive impact is tempered by instability, Power said – not just the familiar boom-bust trajectory, but the “flicker.” That occurs as prices in the international metal markets fluctuate, affecting the mine’s profitability. In turn, the mines compensate by reducing the labor force.
“It’s one thing to talk about high wages, but if the high wages are unreliable, the impact of those high wages on the local economy is going to be different than wages people think that they can count on,” Power said.
Technological advances have made mineral extraction more feasible in spots. But the increase in productivity has also reduced the number of employees neede. From 22 workers in 1970, the number needed to produce a thousand megatons dropped to six in 2004, rebounding slightly for unknown reasons to 10 now.
Because the mining job paid better than most of the alternatives laid-off miners are likely to find, they’re more likely to stay around the area and hope to be rehired, Power said.
“They hang on, hoping to be rehired,” he said. “Instead, what they see is more people being laid off.”
The economic benefits to mining are often least felt in the immediate area. Because of their high wages, miners can afford to live in more upscale areas. Often, they don’t want to live near the mine, where environmental degradation or the end of the mine can hurt property values. That potential for instability also discourages investment in local infrastructure, such as schools.
Power didn’t call for an end to mining, but said residents should apply the same kind of cost-benefit thinking mining companies use when they approach projects.
“We have to make choices, and we have to make choices because there are costs as well as benefits,” he said. “What citizens have to do, from a public interest point of view, is to weigh the clear economic benefits associated with mining, but also recognize the potential cost to the community, then make their decision and urge their representatives in government to do the same thing.”
William Keith of Houghton said he hadn’t known miners would commute so far for work.
“I thought it was an engaging presentation,” he said.
Full report available at http://www.folkminingeducation.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Minings-Economic-Impact-on-Western-UP1.pdf
We are delighted to announce our search for three superstar interns to join Team SWUP starting in the Winter 2014 NMU school semester.
Save the Wild U.P. is at the forefront of protecting our environment and unique culture while promoting sustainable economies. We’re calling for a federal corruption investigation of state mining regulators, tracking new mining developments, educating the public on the hazards of sulfide mining — and hosting free hikes, picnics, concerts and more to celebrate the wonderful wild U.P.!
Update: Our Winter 2014 Internship Application is now closed. Stay tuned for announcements on our Summer and Fall 2014 Intern Corps!
Join us on Saturday, December 7th beginning at 7 p.m. for an amazing evening celebrating the wild U.P. at the Marquette Federation of Women’s Clubs.
It’s been an amazing year and we’re honored to celebrate with The Terminal Orchestra, a eclectic collection of strings, percussion and more of contemporary classical musings that capture the U.P.’s unique beauty.
John Stauber, author of “Toxic Sludge is Good for You,” joins us as our keynote speaker to inspire and inform a new year ahead. Author of multiple books and founder and former director of Center for Media and Democracy, John first came to the Upper Peninsula in the 80s as an activist, but became active on mining issues following a tour of cave-in grounds in Negaunee and Ishpeming.
With a curated locally-inspired silent auction of art and experiences, hand-selected wines, and hors d’oeuvres featuring local goods, this is an event not to be missed.
Buy your tickets today to reserve your spot for our biggest jubilee yet! All proceeds will kick off our 2014 programs protecting the U.P.’s communities and environment from the hazards of sulfide mining.
To purchase tickets, just click here and then on Contribute on the right and then select how many and you’ll be prompted to enter your credit card number. If you have any questions just call us at (906) 662-9987 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us on Wednesday, November 20th at 7:30 p.m. at the Ore Dock Brewing Company in Marquette to hear the lively tunes of Finnish reggae band extraordinaire Conga Se Menne and the witty and macabre folksinger Sycamore Smith.
November 3, 2013| The Mining Journal
The recent controversy surrounding truck routes has brought to light some glaring vulnerabilities in the way permitting decisions for the Eagle Mine have been handled by affected municipalities.
When Kennecott Minerals first applied for a permit to operate Eagle Mine, the City of Marquette, the Marquette County Board, and many other local elected and appointed boards and officials could not get it passed fast enough.
Consequently, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was allowed to get away with the absurd declaration that there were no impacts outside of the mining area (fence).
Hopefully some valuable lessons have been learned and past mistakes will not be repeated for those errors that are still correctable.
Although the city of Marquette has seemingly ‘dodged the bullet’ this time, our region is not out of the woods yet.
A similar rush to permit is currently unfolding at north end of the prescribed haul route for Eagle Mine.
The Marquette County Road Commission has proposed a “realignment” plan for County Roads 510 and AAA from County Road 550 to the Eagle Mine.
MCRC’s design, foisted upon an unsuspecting public, was unveiled at a packed Powell Township Hall on Sept. 26. The public was aghast.
There was only one positive comment given by a single citizen. The plan, in the expressed public view, constituted a new road build, not an alignment.
It called for, and still does, a 55 mph road design that dictates immense amounts of clearing and will take private property if necessary, for corporate-funded interests.
Public comment and questions were allowed on the plan until October 4th, a period of only 9 days. This is a woefully inadequate time for thoughtful and informed feedback.
At the Oct. 15 MCRC meeting in Ishpeming, most questions that had been submitted to the public were answered by Jim Iwanicki, but perhaps due to the rather rushed time frame in which he was required to respond, many were not addressed completely or with clear definition.
At this meeting, which was standing room only, there were zero comments in favor of the “realignment” plan.
At the end of the meeting, Vice-Chair Dave Hall assured the public that “no decision has been made,” but that there was going to be a compromise with no one getting everything that they wanted.
Logically speaking, stating there was going to be a compromise was a decision in itself.
At the MCRC Oct. 21 meeting, a revised plan was presented that included some concessions to public concern.
This was heralded as a compromise and passed unanimously by the MCRC before the public had an opportunity to digest the information.
You cannot not take a plan that is so overwhelmingly opposed (by those who spoke), trim it a little, and expect it to be accepted by the public.
If there is a compromise present, it is the possibility that the public is even considering allowing an all-season road to be built here.
There is nothing in the mining permit, or law, stating there needs to be an all-season road from County Road 550 to the mine. The owners of the Eagle Mine assume the risks inherent in the permit.
They should not be put upon the public. We should not rush to begin work on the so-called “upgrades” to the mining company’s haul route. The minerals are going nowhere.
The MCRC needs to continue listening to the people who live and travel along County Road 510/AAA. These are our roads. This is our community, our lifestyle, and our culture.
The plan currently being considered by the MCRC is not necessary for the safety of either the traveling public or the safe transportation of the ore from Eagle Mine.
It has been soundly rejected to date by the public. The road needs to be designed for 35 mph. There can be no eminent domain for a privately funded project and beneficiary.
At least 30 days should be allotted for comment, followed by a minimum 30 days before a decision is rendered
At the risk of being called an “obstructionist” by this paper, I have to ask, “What’s the rush?” Do not blame the public if Lundin has to wait in order to make matters right and just.
This process could have been started a whole lot sooner than Sept. 26. Let’s take our time.
We have one chance to get this right, or live with the consequences.
Editor’s note: Gene Champagne is a resident of Big Bay.
When we saw that less than 1,900 voters participated in the Marquette City Commission Primary in August, we decided to take on a new project to increase civic engagement in Marquette.
In mid-September we launched a four-page candidate questionnaire for city commission candidates seeking answers to questions we’ve heard in the community — ranging from truck traffic to pedestrian access, from mining to power plants, and more.
“Protecting our environment and communities necessitates civic engagement. We hope results of this questionnaire help voters choose the candidate who best reflects their values,” says SWUP President Margaret Comfort.
We received diverse answers to our questions, but it was heartening to see that every candidate that responded agreed on these critical points –
- Every respondent supports job growth in industries that will decrease our dependence on extractive mining.
- Every respondent supports projects that will increase local employment opportunities that promote economic sustainability.
- Every respondent believes that new mining developments near waterways threaten fish populations and recreational fishing.
- Every respondent supports holding companies financially accountable for their environmental degradation.
“It is significant to see the overwhelming interest amongst candidates for city commission to decrease our dependence on extractive industries. All of the data shows that sulfide mining is a risky and hazardous business that threatens to leak sulfuric acid into our beloved Lake Superior. It’s critical that science prevail against well-funded corporate public relations campaigns,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP vice president.
“Candidates at all levels across the U.P. should know that their positions on mining will define their constituency. Many U.P. voters put economic stability and conservation at the top of their list. Supporting mining-as-usual will not win these votes, and will cost them dearly,” said local attorney and SWUP advisory board member Michelle Halley.
We made every effort in this questionnaire to capture the notes and additions from candidates, added here as footnotes.
-by Laura Gauger, Legal Affairs Coordinator, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, October 30, 2013
Back in 2007 the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC; Tomahawk, Wisconsin) embarked on a mission to hold Flambeau Mining Company (FMC) accountable for water pollution problems caused by the company’s Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin. FMC, at one time managed by Kennecott Minerals (Salt Lake City, Utah) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rio Tinto (London, UK).
This project was never just about us here in Wisconsin … it was about trying to help clean water advocates in the entire Great Lakes region and beyond protect their own waters from adverse impacts linked to sulfide mining operations.
As you know, the mining industry has held up the Flambeau Mine to YOU, the people of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alaska and who knows where else around the world as an example of “environmentally responsible mining” in efforts to convince you to “let them in” and mine in YOUR communities. Our lawsuit was meant to bring out the facts about the serious pollution problems at the Flambeau Mine site and thereby debunk the myth of the “environmentally responsible” Flambeau Mine and give you ammunition to use in your own battles.
We scored a partial victory in 2012, when we took FMC to federal court over violations of the Clean Water Act and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled, among other things, that the company had indeed violated the Act on numerous counts at the Flambeau Mine site.
Unfortunately, however, FMC appealed the decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit proceeded to let the mining company “off the hook.” The Court remained silent on whether or not FMC had violated the Clean Water Act. Instead, they ruled that the mining permit issued to FMC by the State of Wisconsin “shielded” the company from prosecution and that we therefore could not enforce the Clean Water Act against FMC (even though the company had indeed violated the Act, as determined by the U.S. District Court).
In the process, no one was held accountable for the fact that the Flambeau Mine has polluted a tributary of the Flambeau River to the point where theWisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has recommended to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the stream be listed as “impaired” for copper and zinc toxicity linked to the mining operation. And absolutely NOTHING has been done about the high levels of toxins (most notably manganese) in the groundwater at the mine site. You see, groundwater pollution at mine sites in Wisconsin has been legalized by the Wisconsin DNR and State Legislature (see NR 182.075, Wisconsin Administrative Code), so we could not argue that point in either state or federal court.
The latest twist is that FMC, owned by one of the wealthiest multinational mining corporations in the world (Rio Tinto), is “going after” WRPC, Laura Gauger and their fellow plaintiff (Center for Biological Diversity; Tucson, Arizona) to recover various “costs” the company accrued in the lawsuit … to the tune of $157,000.
Our lawyers are fighting the dollar amount demanded by FMC, but it appears we will be required to pay FMC/Rio Tinto many thousands of dollars.
Looks like Lundin Mining inherited a transportation route mess from Rio Tinto when it bought the Eagle Mine located 30 miles north of Marquette.
The Marquette County Road Commission (MCRC) is considering a plan to use eminent domain to seize private property to build a new 55 mph highway from CR 550 (“Big Bay Road”) to the Eagle Mine. The MCRC has said it wouldn’t be making these improvements if not for the Eagle Mine, making it illegal to use eminent domain for the benefit of this multi-national mining company. Area property owners and residents are speaking out against the highway and the threat of eminent domain.
This is not a plan for road upgrades, this is a plan for a brand new highway — and we must speak out! Check out the proposed route changes to the Triple A and CR 510 and responses to questions raised at the recent public hearing. Area residents deserve a new Public Hearing to weigh in on the new proposed upgrades.
The MCRC modified the proposed realignment based on public outcry. But the process is on an accelerated path; as the MCRC approved its plan modifications at the same meeting the modifications were proposed.
Your voice is important! Write a letter to the editor, or call your local Marquette County Commissioner to discuss the proposal for a new highway.
Meanwhile, the City of Marquette is struggling with Lundin Mining’s plan to run ore trucks through the city and Northern Michigan University’s campus. In July, the City Commission’s request to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to have transportation be considered part of the Eagle Mine’s permit was denied, which would have forced the mining company to mitigate environmental impacts of truck traffic in Marquette.
Join us at the upcoming City of Marquette Public Hearing to discuss a proposed trucking ordinance on Wednesday, October 30th at 7 pm at the Marquette City Hall – City Commissioners Chambers to ask questions and add your input. Though the Lundin Eagle Mine says they’ll only increase total truck traffic by a small percentage, these trucks will be filled with ore, increasing the weight on the roadways by an estimated 50%. This poses not only a financial burden on taxpayers for years to come, but, more importantly, a huge safety risk for our communities.
** Update** The City of Marquette Public Hearing was cancelled. We are disappointed that the City of Marquette has chosen to postpone tomorrow’s Public Hearing on a truck ordinance en lieu of private meetings with Lundin Mining Company.
Stay up-to-date with these rapidly-evolving issues by checking out our FB page at Facebook.com/SavetheWildUP — together we will keep da U.P. wild!
Oct. 9, 2013
The end of this month, Oct. 28, marks the 10th anniversary of the historic victory over the controversial Crandon mine project adjacent to the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Reservation.
Veterans of that 28-year (1975-2003) battle against the Crandon metallic sulfide mine will gather on the Mole Lake Reservation on Oct. 26 to commemorate the grass-roots environmental, sportfishing and tribal victory over the world’s largest energy company (Exxon) and the world’s largest mining company (BHP Billiton).
Situated at the headwaters of the Wolf River, the proposed underground shaft mine was one mile upstream from the tribe’s wild rice beds, five miles from the Forest County Potawatomi Reservation, and 40 miles (via the Wolf River) upstream of the Menominee Nation. The mine would have destroyed Mole Lake’s wild rice beds and threatened the tourism industry downstream on the Wolf River.
In the end, the Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi tribes purchased and divided the 5,000-acre Crandon mine property for $16.5 million. Mole Lake acquired the Nicolet Minerals Co., and quickly dropped mine permit applications. The land is now managed as a conservation area devoted to sustainable land-management practices, tribal cultural values and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area.
The international mining industry was shocked when a broad multiracial, rural-based grassroots alliance defeated the world’s largest mining corporation. How could such a movement overcome the superior financial resources, and political access to decision-makers in the Wisconsin Legislature, governor’s office and the Department of Natural Resources?
Dale Alberts, president of Nicolet Minerals, a subsidiary of BHP Billliton, acknowledged that “a major problem in the beginning was the company did a poor job communicating to the local people. Environmental groups got out ahead and frightened people.”
But what really frightened people was the prospect of acidic mine waste piles 90 feet deep and covering 355 acres at the headwaters of the pristine Wolf. Native and non-Native groups mistrusted the DNR to defend their rights and found that tribal environmental regulations were stronger than state laws in protecting the Wolf River’s tourism economy.
After the Crandon defeat, the mining industry urgently discussed the need for a “social license to operate” where the mining companies work to win broad social support for their extractive activities. The failure to obtain such a social license raises the political and financial risks of a project and can often lead to the defeat of a mining project by widespread community opposition.
This is exactly what happened at Crandon and what is now taking place in the Bad River watershed where Gogebic Taconite has proposed a mountaintop removal operation to create the largest open pit iron mine in the world upstream from the largest remaining wild rice wetland in the entire Great Lakes basin on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation.
GTac has followed Exxon’s strategy by using its financial and political power with the governor and the Legislature to write its own mining law, severely limiting citizen and tribal participation in the permitting process, and militarizing the mine site by deploying masked security guards with automatic weapons to intimidate the public.
The most recent public opinion survey from the University of Wisconsin-Superior shows that nearly two-thirds of the people in a random poll in Iron and Ashland counties oppose the mine project.
From the perspective of the mining industry’s own standards for a viable mine project, this project is dead in the water.
Al Gedicks of La Crosse is executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. Dave Blouin of Madison is the Mining Committee chair of the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter.