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.