New Ground Water Discharge Permit proposed for Lundin Eagle Mine: Analysis | Michelle Halley

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is seeking to renew the Lundin Eagle Mine’s Ground Water Discharge Permit — with significantly weakened environmental regulations. Below is an analysis of the proposed permit by attorney Michelle Halley for Freshwater Future.

Stay tuned for updates, including the forthcoming MDEQ public hearing announcement, and more.

Exceedances and MDEQ’s Failure to Act and Backwards Regulation

During the current permit period, the mine has exceeded it limits at least 47 times, in at least the following constituents and characteristics:

  • pH;
  • arsenic;
  • copper;
  • lead;
  • molybdenum;
  • silver; and
  • vanadium.

MDEQ has taken no enforcement action.  In fact, the mine has exceeded its vanadium limit more than 20 times.  Instead of enforcing the limit, in this renewal permit, MDEQ is easing the limit.  This is completely backwards.  The MDEQ’s role is regulator, not conciliator.  The limits were set, supposedly based upon sound science, as MDEQ strenuously argued during the months-long contested case that encompassed the current groundwater discharge permit.  Now, rather than protecting water quality, the draft simply increases the limits to industry’s preferred levels.  The facility’s performance should be required to meet the regulatory standards rather than the regulatory standards being adjusted to meet the facility’s performance.

Permit Limits Allow Egregious Degradation from Baseline Water Quality

Further MDEQ staff repeatedly assert that limits set in this renewal permit are based upon “background levels” at the site.  That could not be farther from the truth.  Below is a table comparing today’s proposed permit levels with baseline levels reported in Rio Tinto’s 2004 Environmental Baseline Study Stage 1 Hydrology Report, Table 9, “Quaternary Deposit Groundwater Quality Data, Eagle Project.”  For appropriate comparison, both sets of data reference wells in the A or D zones of the quaternary aquifer:

Lithium ug/L 88 <10
Antimony ug/L 5 <5.0
Arsenic ug/L 6 <2.0 (except values of 4.8 and 8.4)
Barium ug/L 1000 <20 (except values of 47, 39 and 27)
Beryllium ug/L 3 <1.0
Boron ug/L 285 <100
Cadmium ug/L 3 <0.5
Chromium ug/L 52 <5.0
Cobalt ug/L 23 <10
Copper ug/L 10 <5.0
Lead ug/L 3 <1.0
Manganese ug/L 50 <20 (except values of 64, 52, 140 and 180)
Molybdenum ug/L 22 <10 (except values of 15 and 40)
Nickel ug/L 57 <25
Selenium ug/L 5 <1.0
Silver ug/L 0.4 <0.2
Zinc ug/L 17 <10 (except one value of 17)
Chloride mg/L 250 Values <1.0 up to 3.7
Sulfate mg/L 250 Values <5.0 up to 33
Sodium mg/L 120 Values <0.5 up to 29

Scope of Monitoring and Regulation is Insufficient

In addition to the false justifications for the draft permit’s limits reflecting baseline values, as was the case with the original permit, the scope of monitoring and compliance is far too small to assess impacts to the aquifer that inevitably extend beyond the postage stamp this permit purports to regulate.  The monitoring and compliance wells just graze if they extend at all beyond the mine’s fence line.  With significant underground disturbance from mining itself, dewatering of the mine, a supply well and the 504,000 gpd influx allowed by this permit, these influences on groundwater flow and quality are ignored by this permit.  Please note that Attachment VI, “Groundwater Contour Map” is from the mine’s 2007 permit and does not even attempt to represent the current groundwater contour scenario.

MDEQ Continues Ignoring its Statutory Duty to Regulate Surface Water Discharge

MDEQ continues to refuse to regulate, as required by the Clean Water Act, the surface water discharge at the seeps, where the water regulated by this permit indisputably expresses to surface water.  The draft permit, in Part III, No. 1 on p. 22 states:

Discharge to the Surface Waters

This permit does not authorize any discharge to the surface waters. The permittee is responsible for obtaining any permits required by federal or state laws or local ordinances.

Unfortunately, this permit does regulate surface water discharge to the seeps.  It does so illegally and inadequately, but it is the only regulation MDEQ has ever imposed on the discharge to the seeps.  Michigan has been delegated by the United States the authority to regulate surface water discharges via the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.  Its failure to do so is egregious. This is particularly evident given MDEQ’s refusal to apply any numeric limitations on:  mercury, uranium, calcium, iron and magnesium.  Mercury is of great concern in the Great Lakes basin due to the rampant impairment of nearly every surface water body in the region.  Yet, at the Eagle Mine, no limit is imposed even though this water ends up in the Salmon Trout River and Lake Superior.

Limits on Uranium and Other Constituents Must At Least Match Federal Limits

In 2013, uranium was found in the wastewater stream at the Eagle Mine.  The permittee makes unsubstantiated assertions that the origin of the uranium is some unknown off-site location from which it obtained building materials.  MDEQ has the responsibility to regulate uranium, and every other federally-regulated constituent, to federal levels.  It is failing to do so with the proposed limits and the numerous “report only” constituents, including uranium.

Check back for updates on this proposed Ground Water Discharge Permit — and how to get involved to protect our lake, land, and community from the hazards of sulfide mining.

Rio Tinto Targets Clean Water Advocates in Wisconsin

-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 MinnesotaMichiganWisconsinAlaska 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” WRPCLaura 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.

Stay tuned.



Analysis: Rio Tinto’s Permit Modifications

By Cynthia Pryor

The main and substantive issue, in the new Air Quality permit application for the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine, is Rio Tinto’s assertions that an air emission control is not required for the Main Air Raise Vent (MVAR). The MVAR is a stack that is 128″ (10.6′) in diameter and 65′ high and is the only vent for all the underground workings for the mine. The emissions will include all those items associated with the development and retrieval of the ore body including blasting, ore handling, truck traffic, diesel fuels, large mine heaters, etc. Rio’s original Air Quality Permit was approved with the inclusion of a Bag House and air filter on this MVAR stack – that would capture 99% of all emissions which would include reactive sulfides resident in and broken loose from this ultramafic massive sulfide ore body.

Rio Tinto has reconfigured their plant so that they have moved the original underground cement batch plant and associated material silos (aggregate, cement) to the surface near Eagle Rock. They say there will be no crushing underground and an ore pass system will not be utilized – therefore reducing sulfide dust and emissions to such a low level that a bag house would no longer be required. In fact they say that a bag house would not even function properly – the emissions are so low. They will instead control all underground dust with water spray from a tank truck and and a hose.

All of Rio’s assumptions are based on modeling programs, heater systems whose emissions are exempt from regulation, and the assertion that will be able to control all dust with water spray from a hose. The DEQ does not require them to have controls on this huge MVAR stack, even though there will be controls on every other emission source at the mine, including an emergency generator. The DEQ does not require any air quality monitoring of the site or of this stack. Emission testing of the stack will only take place when Rio Tinto is producing 1,660 tons of ore a day. The DEQ will not require any emission testing during the blasting of adits or production of ore under this tonnage rate. Sulfide, heavy metals, blasting emissions, fuel emissions, etc. will be free flowing into the air on the Yellow Dog Plains with no control, no monitoring, and very limited testing.

The DEQ calls the Yellow Dog Plains an attainment area – which is a geographic area which has air quality below Federal Air Quality Standards. In other words, the air is good on the Plains and Rio has now the ability, under law, to pollute this air until they reach the limit of the air quality standard set by the EPA. Their models show that they can do this at 91% of the attainment level. That leaves 9% left for someone else to pollute to get them at a Saginaw, Detroit Chicago level of Air Quality. These emissions are only representative of the mine area itself. All diesel emmisons and fugitive dust from the transportation of the ore on public roads are not included in this emission standard calculation. The DEQ says they have no regulatory oversight of public roads. Nor do they have oversight of the underground workings to prove they can make their claims of low emissions. That is someone else who takes care of that (Mine Safety and Health – MSHA) . The DEQ is only concerned with what comes out of the stack and Rio’s models say they can do it and that is all the proof they need until they do their first production emissions test.

From the beginning, the State of Michigan has recognized that non-ferrous sulfide mining is different and that sulfides, from metallic sulfide mines, released into the environment and coming into contact with air and water can cause Acid Mine Drainage and damage to our land, our waters and our communities. The DEQ Air Quality staff do not seem to see any danger to the Salmon Trout River which flows a mere 150′ from this stack. They have required no impact assessment of the Yellow Dog watershed, nor an impact statement to Eagle Rock – the KBIC sacred site within the fence of this mine. They see no danger to the community of Big Bay and it’s peoples, lake and streams who are an immediate few miles downwind from the Eagle Mine.

Our job is to ask for proof that their models are correct – by demanding air quality monitors at the site that run 24/7 for the life of the mine.
We must also demand that Rio Tinto keep the promise that they made in their original permit (made as a result of public comment and pressure!) to put an air filter on the main polluting source at the site – the MVAR stack. “PROMISES KEPT” is Rio Tinto’s main motto. Let us make them hold to that promise.


Detroit Free Press 2-part article on U.P Mining

U.P. mines seeing a resurgence as companies hope to cash in

Ruins of the old Quincy Mine in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. The Quincy Mining Company was established in 1848, and the city of Hancock developed adter the arrival of  the miners. Copper mining operations stopped in 1945.
Ruins of the old Quincy Mine in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011. The Quincy Mining Company was established in 1848, and the city of Hancock developed adter the arrival of the miners. Copper mining operations stopped in 1945.

By Tina Lam

Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

PHOTO’s by SUSAN TUSA/Detroit Free Press

It's estimated the Eagle Mine in the U.P. will start extracting nickel and copper in 2013.

It’s estimated the Eagle Mine in the U.P. will start extracting nickel and copper in 2013.
Environmental groups are concerned about the effect mining could have on the Upper Peninsula's abundant nature. They say the state has too few resources to be a proper watchdog. Still, struggling towns view the mines as an answer to their prayers, bringing in much-needed jobs and tax revenue.
Environmental groups are concerned about the effect mining could have on the Upper Peninsula’s abundant nature. They say the state has too few resources to be a proper watchdog. Still, struggling towns view the mines as an answer to their prayers, bringing in much-needed jobs and tax revenue.

Modern uses for some of the metals to be mined in the U.P.

Nickel: Added to stainless steel to prevent corrosion, so it’s found in stainless steel kitchen appliances and pots and pans. Also found in surgical stainless steel, which is easily sterilized, used for medical instruments, some bone implants and body piercing. Used in coins, electronics, rechargeable batteries for laptops and cell phones, and some hybrid car batteries.

Copper: Used in wiring and plumbing. Essential component of the motors, wiring, radiators, connectors, brakes and bearings in cars and trucks. Added to brass to make doorknobs germ-resistant. Coating for U.S. pennies.

Gold: Eighty percent is used in jewelry. Also used as bullion and coins, and in small amounts in computers, cell phones, calculators, GPS devices and televisions.

Silver: Used in jewelry, silverware, photography and coins. Silver ions are used in water purification because they retard the growth of bacteria and algae.



Location: south of Big Bay, central UP

Owner: Rio Tinto and its wholly owned subsidiary, Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Permit: Applied 2006, granted 2007, mine permits have survived two legal challenges

Metals: Nickel, copper

Jobs: 220, including mill

Operation: Mine is under construction, expected to open 2014

Other: Company plans to reopen abandoned Humboldt Mill about 30 miles away to process ore


Location: north of Wakefield, far western UP

Owner: Orvana Minerals Corp.

Permit: Applied Sept. 2011, company expects permit spring 2012

Metals: Copper, silver

Jobs: 250

Other: Ore is in rock with less sulfide than the other two mines, making it less risky for sulfuric acid drainage


Location: west of Stephenson, southern UP

Owners: 51% HudBay Minerals, 49% Aquila Resources

Permit: Expect to apply June 2012

Metals: Gold, silver, zinc, copper

Jobs: 230

Other: Open pit mine, next to Menominee River

The entrance to the Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township goes under Eagle Rock, rather than through it. Environmental groups and some residents of the towns near new mines are worried about noise, truck traffic, new roads, new power lines and contaminated air and water. / November photos by SUSAN TUSA/Detroit Free Press
Mine president Adam Burley said because Eagle — the nation’s first primary nickel mine — is the first new mine in the U.P. in decades, he wants to make it a model for others. “We’re raising the bar,” he said.
Kristi Mills, director of Save the Wild UP, with son Thomas Kinjorski, said the Department of Environmental Quality’s staff and budget have been gutted. The group is concerned about contamination.

First of 2 parts | Part 2

BIG BAY — In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s drill, baby, drill.

The drilling that began there in September is not for oil, but for gold, silver, copper and nickel.

In a resurgence of mining in the region whose mineral heyday was more than a century ago, foreign companies are finding rich bodies of ore they hope to mine for billions of dollars.

New technology and higher prices for metals are making mining profitable again, spurred by increases in demand for high-tech gadgets such as smartphones, kitchens full of stainless steel appliances and hybrid cars — all of which use the metals that can be found in the U.P.

Three new mines are either under way or planned, with more possible. Also, an abandoned mill to process ore is expected to reopen. Mineral rights on more than 1 million of the U.P.’s 7 million acres have been leased by companies prospecting for metals.

The new mines are less than a football field away from streams, rivers or Lake Superior, and environmental groups say the risks of contamination from acidic rock waste are high and that the state has too few resources to be a proper watchdog.

“I’m not anti-mine, I’m anti-mining pollution,” said Marla Tuinstra, a writer and retired dairy farmer near Stephenson, where an open pit gold mine is planned.

For struggling towns hungry for tax revenue and jobs, the mines are an answer to their prayers.

John Cox is supervisor of Wakefield Township, where a new copper mine is planned not far from the White Pine Mine, which closed 15 years ago.

“This is the best news we’ve had for years,” he said.

Rush is on as mining firms scour U.P. for deposits

Coming Monday: Is the state making enough money from these mines?

BIG BAY — The scream of hydraulic drills against bare rock echoes through the underground tunnel in the Eagle Mine. Dark figures are silhouetted against daylight at the tunnel’s entrance.

For international mining giant Rio Tinto, that light is symbolic: It’s the end of a 10-year push to start the mine — the nation’s first primary nickel mine and the first new mine in the Upper Peninsula in decades.

With its tunnel growing deeper at the rate of 12 feet per day, a Lansing judge on Wednesday cleared the mine’s path completely, dismissing a lawsuit that challenged its permits.

Other mining firms see Eagle’s start as a signal to push forward. Orvana Minerals, based in Toronto, has submitted a permit application for Copperwood, an underground copper mine near Wakefield in the U.P. And a third firm is preparing its application for Back Forty, an open pit gold, zinc and copper mine near Stephenson.

The rush is on.

Search for minerals

Websites of companies exploring for minerals show maps of the U.P. dotted with drilling targets. “Great Lakes: unparalleled potential,” says the map from Aquila Resources, a company listed on the Toronto stock exchange that discovered gold and copper in Menominee County. Its map shows four other sites it is targeting in the U.P.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals, the Rio Tinto subsidiary that discovered the rich copper-nickel deposit near Big Bay in 2002, said it’s continuing intensive exploration in the central and western U.P. Prime Meridian Resources of Calgary, Alberta, is hunting for copper, gold and nickel.

Bitterroot Resources of Vancouver, British Columbia, says it has mineral rights across 363 square miles in the U.P. and is scouting copper, nickel and platinum. Other firms have told the state they’re seeking uranium.

It’s not just Michigan: Companies also are planning mines in Ontario, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“It’s like looking for elephants,” said Ted Bornhorst, professor of economic and engineering geology at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. “If you see one, you may find more.”

The state, excited about the prospect of new mining in the U.P., has set up an interdepartmental team to deal with issues surrounding mines.

“We see this as major economic development needed in the U.P.,” said Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

He said the state expects to see more than the three mines already proposed.

“The governor is very open to this, as long as we can make sure the companies meet requirements for air and water quality,” Wyant said.

He noted that new technology has changed mining. “It’s a different day and a different time,” he said.

All three companies said they will have modern water treatment plants that will make water discharged from the mining process cleaner than rain, which has contaminants deposited from air pollution. State law requires the new mine sites to be restored, with the buildings gone, pits and tunnels filled and flooded, and trees and shrubs planted when the mine shuts down.

Environmental concerns

Environmental groups and some residents of the towns near the new mines are worried about noise, truck traffic, new roads, new power lines and contaminated air and water. The new mines are in sulfide rock; its tailings contain sulfur that can create sulfuric acid when exposed to air and moisture. Critics say the state has suffered such deep budget cuts that it doesn’t have the funds or staff to do a good job protecting the environment. They also say the DEQ has become a booster rather than a watchdog over mines.

The Eagle Mine will be beneath the Salmon Trout River, which flows into Lake Superior; Back Forty is a few hundred feet from the Menominee River, and the Copperwood Mine is 200 feet from Lake Superior. Hunting, fishing, canoeing and hiking are popular in all three areas, and groups such as Save the Wild UP are concerned they’ll be contaminated by mine drainage.

The DEQ’s staff and budget have been gutted in recent years, said Kristi Mills, director of Save the Wild UP. The DEQ has only two staff members in the U.P. to oversee two existing iron mines, the three future mines and exploratory drilling.

Former director Steve Chester told the Free Press in 2010 that the agency’s general fund budget was cut 75% between 2003 and 2010.

Wyant said some staff in Lansing also work on mine issues, and that its resources are sufficient.

But Michelle Halley, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, which has challenged the Eagle permits in court, said the new mines, both in Michigan and elsewhere, will affect water quality in the Great Lakes Basin, not just the U.P.

She also said Michigan’s mining law places no restrictions on where mining can occur. “Every square inch is open.”

Bringing in the jobs

Mills of Save the Wild UP said the issue right now is jobs.

“It’s bad timing,” she said.

Not only does Rio Tinto intend to hire 300 people at Eagle, it also plans to reopen a mill to process its rock, and possibly that of other future mines. The Humboldt Mill hasn’t operated since 1989 and it, too, will bring jobs.

Dan Hornbogen is one of eight generations that lives, or have lived, in Marquette. He has served on an advisory committee to the company and is among the mine’s avid supporters.

“There are no guarantees, but these people know what they’re doing,” he said.

Jon Saari of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition doubts the mine can avoid polluting air and water.

“There is human hubris here,” he said.

A coalition of environmental groups and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community had argued in court documents that a long list of problems with the Eagle Mine should have led the state to reject its permits, including a potentially unstable roof and environmental studies that were flawed or not done. The judge in the case disagreed and dismissed their lawsuit.

On a tour of the mine site, Kristin Mariuzza, environmental manager of the mine, points out the multiple water treatment systems proudly. A former DEQ employee and U.P. native, she said the $10-million system will make water from the mine site cleaner than what most people drink.

“We treat it more,” she said. The water must be clean enough to protect fish in nearby streams under state law.

Mine president Adam Burley said because Eagle is the first new mine in the U.P. in decades, he wants to make it a model for others. “We’re raising the bar,” he said.

A crown jewel?

HudBay Minerals of Toronto and partner Aquila Resources call their planned Back Forty Mine a “crown jewel,” with nearly 1 million ounces of gold and 1 billion pounds of copper, as well as other metals.

To Ron and Carol Henriksen, it’s no jewel. The couple created their retirement dream home on 6 acres along the shores of the Menominee River west of Stephenson. But after mining rigs began drilling exploratory holes down the road, they decided to sell to the mining company and have yet to find a new home.

Their property and many of those around it are marked with red anti-mine signs, and the Henriksens are active in Front 40, a group formed to encourage locals to ask tough questions about the Back Forty mine.

“If people understand the facts, they won’t be for it,” Ron Henriksen said.

The 250 jobs generated by the mine will last only nine years — the mine’s expected life — but the effects on hunting, fishing and recreational tourism could be long-lasting, Henriksen said.

“I don’t want my grandchildren saying to me, ‘Why did you let this happen?’ ” he said.

Some fear the mine will drive down property values. And the mine’s owners are Canadian companies, so even if 75% of jobs go to locals as promised, the profits will go back to Canada.

Cyanide will be used in the processing of the mine rock, and the Front 40 said it fears that could contaminate the Menominee River and create hazards when it’s transported to the site.

Mine spokesman Tom Shields said the cyanide will be used only in processing gold and silver and will be neutralized afterward.

Area residents have mixed opinions.

Jeff Anderson is a financial adviser and stock broker who has sold thousands of shares in HudBay. He sees it as a good investment, both for individuals and for the community, where he has lived for decades and is on the Downtown Development Authority board.

“What we have is an opportunity for higher economic development and better-paying jobs,” he said. Besides direct jobs, the mine is expected to create 220 support jobs, he said. “Higher wages and jobs could have a good impact,” he said.

He said he’s convinced, after a recent forum, that the DEQ will do a good job overseeing environmental risks.

Mick Lawler is project manager for HudBay. He said he’s confident the company can avoid the pollution opponents fear. The firm plans to build a concrete pillar between the mine and the river, treat water that is used in the mining process or falls on the site, and neutralize and bury rock waste in the mine pit, flooding it with water when the mine shuts down.

The company hopes to apply for a permit next June.

“I don’t know who to believe,” said Robin Leaveck, who works at her parents’ Stephenson Family Restaurant and grew up in the area. On one hand, the metals are needed for cars, electronic gadgets and wiring. On the other, “this is God’s country,” she said. “I hope they can do it without destroying it.”

‘Now we struggle’

Even with a rebirth in mining, the U.P. won’t see thousands of mining jobs from these projects. The numbers will be in the low hundreds at each mine, and the mines will be short-lived, open for at most a dozen years.

But the boost to small, hard-hit local economies will be impressive.

Wakefield Township Supervisor John Cox grew up in the area but left as a young man to get a good job and returned as a retiree.

“A lot of kids here have to leave like I did,” he said.

The proposed Copperwood Mine, which expects to get a state permit by next spring, will bring up to 250 jobs when it opens. “We’ve had unemployment over 10% for a long, long time,” and it’s even higher in neighboring Ontonagon, he said.

In the iron mining days, the area had swimming pools, community centers, good paved roads and other things small communities often don’t have. But those days ended when the White Pine Mine closed in 1995.

“Now we struggle,” he said.

Bornhorst, the Michigan Tech professor, said that because the U.S. is capable of protecting its environment, it should have mines that produce metals its citizens use, rather than sticking other countries with the risks.

“People don’t want copper mines in their backyard, but they’ll go down to Lowe’s to buy copper wire,” he said. “We’re the ones that use these metals the most. We should have the mines.”

Contact Tina Lam: 313-222-6421 or

Part 2:   Will mines get state’s riches for a paltry sum?     by staff writer Tina Lam|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Mines begin digging into U.P. free of key state tax

Mines begin digging into U.P. free of key state tax

01 November 2011

SEVERED FROM TAX: The Kennecott Eagle Mine near Marquette could generate as much $5 billion in nickel and copper — resources that would not fall under Michigan’s current severance tax for natural resources. (Courtesy photo)

In September, after years of heated debate and legal battles, Kennecott Eagle Minerals began blasting into the ground at its controversial nickel mine near Marquette.

The company, a subsidiary of London-based mining giant Rio Tinto, believes the Eagle mine will yield 300 million pounds of nickel and 250 million pounds of copper. Kennecott is one of several foreign firms pursuing what are believed to be large deposits of nickel, gold and other valuable metals found in bedrock underlying the western Upper Peninsula.

Those deposits could be worth billions of dollars, but the companies that extract them from the ground won’t pay a penny in severance taxes. By comparison, if Michigan treated the Kennecott mine the way Florida would, the state’s take could reach an additional $400 million.

Continue reading

DNR Seeks Public Input on Habitat Management for Wildlife

Dec. 22, 2009
CONTACT: Kerry Fitzpatrick 517-373-1263 or Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014

The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public meeting in January to help wildlife officials identify species in need of special attention as the DNR develops habitat management plans across the state.
The meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Mt. Pleasant Comfort Inn & Suites, located at 2424 South Mission St. in Mt. Pleasant.
The DNR Wildlife Division recently has completed a management plan for bears and currently is writing a plan for white-tailed deer. In addition, wildlife officials have developed a list of featured species and are asking the public to help focus on the habitat needs of those and other species.
“Knowing which wildlife species Michigan citizens value most will help in the effective management of wildlife habitat,” said DNR wildlife habitat specialist Kerry Fitzpatrick. “These meetings are an important step in creating a wildlife habitat program.”
Featured species are those that are highly valued and have a habitat issue the DNR can address. They may include mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians or insects. The needs of these species will impact habitat management decisions.
“We’re asking the public: Did we miss any important species?” Fitzpatrick said. “How should we prioritize these species? These are questions we need to answer before we embark on major habitat management efforts.”
All interested parties are encouraged to attend and participate. Persons with disabilities needing accommodations for effective participation in the meeting should contact Kerry Fitzpatrick at 517-3737-1263 or, at least seven days prior to the meeting to request mobility, visual, hearing or other assistance.

Written comments may be sent to Kerry Fitzpatrick, DNR Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 30444, Lansing, MI 48909-7944 or Written comments will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2010.

The DNR is committed to the conservation, protection, management, accessible use and enjoyment of the state’s natural resources for current and future generations.

Scripps Lays Out Plan to Protect Michigan’s Waters

Placing waters in the public trust will protect the Great Lakes

— September 02, 2009

GLEN ARBOR – Speaking to a gathering of citizen activists, State Representative Dan Scripps (D-Leland) laid out his vision for protecting all of Michigan’s waters, including lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater, by affirming they should be clearly defined as a public resource, giving them the same protections against privatization as the Great Lakes and all surface water.

“We’re surrounded by 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, and with that blessing comes an incredible responsibility,” Scripps said. “We must act as responsible stewards of our waters and preserve our lakes, rivers and beaches for future generations. Our waters are not only part of our heritage, but a key part of creating and protecting thousands of jobs across Northwest Michigan and a cornerstone of Michigan’s tourism industry.”

Scripps will introduce legislation this week to clarify that Michigan’s waters are subject to the public trust, placing them under the shared ownership of the people of Michigan for the benefit of present and future generations.

“This legislation will erase any doubt that the waters of Michigan belong to the citizens of Michigan,” Scripps said, “and that Michigan citizens must continue to have a say in protecting this resource.”

Scripps spoke at a luncheon for the Leelanau Independent Women for Democratic Action.

“Our state relies on healthy waters to sustain jobs in our three largest industries,” Scripps said. “We need to protect these jobs as we work to pull Michigan out of this economic slump. But this plan is about more than that. The Great Lakes are part of what makes us who we are here in Michigan. They’re a defining part of our state – Michigan’s crown jewels – and that’s a history and legacy we must fight to preserve.”