Do you Wanna Save the Wild UP? Join our Intern Corps!

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!

Save the Wild U.P. releases local candidate questionnaire results — showing agreement to protect environment and promote sustainable economy

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.

Check out the full responses to the candidate questionnaire — and we hope that no matter your political stripe you’ll head out to the polls on Tuesday, November 5th!

 

New highway proposed for Eagle Mine

Featured

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.

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!

Kick-off celebration of U.P.’s Trap Hills huge success

BERGLAND — On Sunday, August 18th, the Trap Hills Conservation Alliance (THCA) and Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) hosted an inaugural day of events celebrating the Trap Hills, a rarely-visited scenic area featuring stunning views, at the Bergland Township Park.

Participants traveled from places as near as Wakefield and as far as Big Bay, Houghton, and Duluth for the event. Nearly 30 hikers, ages 5 and up, enjoyed guided hikes on the North Country Trail and the Cascade Falls Trails north of Bergland. Wisconsin folksinger Skip Jones played tunes inspired by nature and labor history as hikers enjoyed a free picnic lunch from local businesses.

Nona Trealoff of SoulsShine in Hudson, Wisc. led a blessings ceremony on the shore of Lake Gogebic prior to the hike. Said Margaret Comfort, president of SWUP, “The Trap Hills are indeed a blessing to behold! We are proud to host this free day of events in conjunction with the Trap Hills Conservation Alliance, as we seek to educate the public and introduce them to the splendor of this truly magical place.”

Two hikes, led by botanist Steve Garske and geologist and retired Ottawa National
Forest wilderness ranger Doug Welker, featured 40-mile views from the edge of a spectacular rock bluff, a trip to Cascade Falls, and a vista that included a 350-foot sheer cliff, the highest in Michigan.

As Welker noted, the Trap Hills are perhaps the most spectacular and fascinating of Michigan’s largely-undiscovered secrets. With high rock bluffs, seemingly endless views, remote and relatively pristine areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, 50 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), numerous other trails including the Pioneer Multi-use Motorized Trail, and a long historic and prehistoric copper mining history (interpreted at Old Victoria and in area museums), it’s hard to find such a concentration of special places and recreational opportunities anywhere.

“That’s why some of us are working to get the Trap Hills designated as a federal National Recreation Area (NRA), to protect special areas, increase and promote recreational opportunities, and bring more recreation-related dollars into the local economy. Done right, it could be a win-win opportunity for the variety of diverse groups who would have a stake in both developing and protecting this area,” said Welker.

Steve Garske, local botanist and board member of Save the Wild U.P., said, “A Trap Hills National Recreation Area would help protect the beautiful Western U.P. and contribute to a sustainable economy for the region as well.”

SWUP Executive Director Alexandra Thebert agreed. “Many people who live just a few minutes away have never known about the Trap Hills. We’re dedicated to protecting the Trap Hills for future generations — and glad this will include even more hikes, cook-outs, and educational events!”

Assistant Surveyor and SWUP Advisory Board Member Richard Sloat added, “I’ve lived in the Western U.P most of my life, I have visited the Porkies but I had no idea an area of such beauty and geologic diversity as the Trap Hills area existed. Why? Nobody told me.”

Doug Welker can be reached at dwelker@up.net for more information on the North Country Trail or to get involved in crafting a National Recreation Area proposal.

A primer on the Trap Hills is available at http:// www.northcountrytrail.org/pwf/traphills.htm

Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization focused on preserving the U.P.’s unique cultural and environmental resources. Visit SavetheWildUP.org for more information and to get involved.

Speaking Truth to Power: Rio Tinto’s Annual Meeting

LONDON NEWS UPDATE: Alexandra Thebert, attending Rio Tinto’s Annual Shareholders Meeting as a dissident shareholder, voiced the community’s concerns regarding Eagle Mine. She reminded Rio Tinto’s shareholders of the mine’s fraudulent permitting, transportation problems, the removal of air filtration at the mine portal, uranium, and the continually growing opposition to Eagle Mine and growing support for protecting our community’s health and environment.

AUDIO: Listen to this MP3 audio recording of Alexandra Thebert speaking truth to power earlier today — yes, that’s heckling (!) you’ll hear while she speaks — followed by a rebuttal from Rio Tinto’s CEO Sam Walsh.

NEWS CLIPPING: A detailed account of Thebert’s journey to London was featured on the front page of The Mining Journal (4-15-2013):

Article from The Mining Journal 4-15-2013

Stories of Resistance: London Mining Network

Check out this video footage of SWUP’s executive director, Alexandra Thebert, participating in a London Mining Network event held at the offices of Amnesty International!

UK journalist John Vidal of the Guardian moderated a passionate, informative panel discussion, in which Alexandra joined representatives from Arizona, Columbia, Mongolia, South Africa, and West Papua to highlight the appalling labor and environmental records of global mining companies Rio Tinto and Anglo American.

Please help spread the word about this important work by viewing and sharing the video today.

To hear Alexandra’s testimony, start video at 45:18

Does Rio Tinto know what you care about?

We want to hear from you — What would you say to Rio Tinto shareholders in London? Share your concerns in the “comments” section below and we’ll share your thoughts on our website, Facebook, and at shareholders meeting and protests in London.

Save the Wild U.P.’s executive director, Alexandra, will be heading to London to voice community opposition to Eagle Mine at Rio Tinto’s annual shareholders meeting. She will be the 10th person from the Upper Peninsula attending this meeting to highlight the hazards and risks of Eagle Mine to our community and show the shareholders that we won’t “Keep Calm and Carry On” in the face of sulfide mining.

Alexandra will join activists from around the world, including Colombia, Mongolia, and South Africa, to protest and highlight Rio Tinto’s wretched environmental and labor record. You can follow her trip on Twitter @SavetheWildUP, and on Facebook.

This is made possible by a special fund created by activists specifically for this trip and we are grateful for their support.

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.

 

Keweenaw Bay Indians’ Fight Against Michigan Mine Detailed in Series

By ICTMN Staff November 11, 2012

StandForTheLand.com

Sacred Eagle Rock is now surrounded by barbed wire.

As Kennecott Eagle Minerals lurches toward completing its plan to begin mining copper and nickel from tribal lands in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula beginning in 2014, the fight on the part of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa is far from over. Continue reading

Rio Tinto, local groups establish environmental monitoring program

September 13, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN – Journal Staff Writer , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE – Formal agreements signed this week between Rio Tinto, the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Marquette County Community Foundation have created a new independent community environmental monitoring program for the Eagle Mine, Humboldt Mill and associated transportation routes. Continue reading