Uranium found at mine location | Mining Journal


April 5, 2013

MARQUETTE – Testing by Rio Tinto and the Superior Watershed Partnership has confirmed the presence of uranium in water samples from the bottom of a rock storage area at the Eagle Mine, which exceeds the federal maximum concentration level for safe drinking water.

The finding does not violate any state or federal regulatory permits at the mine, but technicians will continue monitoring and testing to learn more about the uranium.

“The significance largely is that it was unexpected and (yet) there it is, present; and trying to identify the source and is it being contained and removed,” said Jon Becker, a communications and development specialist with the Superior Watershed Partnership in Marquette. “We feel the public is going to be interested in that and we want to make sure that they know that we’re all looking at it and evaluating.”
Article Photos

Superior Watershed Partnership senior planner Geri Grant collects a water quality sample from the Temporary Development Rock Storage Area sumps at Rio Tinto’s Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township during the first quarter of 2013 verification monitoring.

The mine’s Temporary Development Rock Storage Area is designed to be an environmentally secure feature which holds waste rock from mining tunnel excavation until it is later put back underground to fill voids where ore was removed.

The bottom of the storage area has two multi-layered lining systems: a primary contact water sump and a lower secondary lining, called the leak detection sump.

Last month, a laboratory in Indiana determined a water sample taken from the leak sump in February by partnership staff – as part of its ongoing Community Environmental Monitoring of Rio Tinto’s mining activities – was found to contain 72.6 parts per billion of uranium.

Partnership staff was test sampling water quality in the leak sump to compare with previous test results produced by Rio Tinto.
Since December 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been regulating uranium in community drinking water supplies to reduce the risk of kidney disease and cancer.

A Western Upper Peninsula Health Department advisory on uranium said the EPA standards for safe drinking water are based on assuming a person drinks two liters of water each day for 70 years.

The EPA maximum concentration level for uranium under the Safe Drinking Water Act is 30 parts per billion, with concentrations exceeding that level considered unsafe. Consequently, the laboratory was required by law to report the uranium level from the leak sump water sample.

“It’s a reporting requirement of the act because they don’t necessarily know what the source of that water is,” Becker said. “If it was a drinking well, it’d be an issue of concern. This is not drinking water.”

Rio Tinto’s rock storage area and water treatment plant are not governed by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but by the company’s mining and groundwater discharge permits.

Dan Blondeau, a Rio Tinto spokesman in Humboldt, said the estimated 26,000 gallons of water in the leak sump came primarily from rain that fell when the rock storage area was being built three years ago.

Since September 2011, Rio Tinto has removed 2,864 gallons of that water to contact water basins and then to the mine’s water treatment plant for processing.

Blondeau said that process includes ion exchange and reverse osmosis filtration, which are two methods federal regulators recommend for removing uranium from drinking water.

After being treated, water is either recycled back into the mining process or discharged into the ground through the mine’s treated water infiltration system.

“The mine site is designed to collect and treat water that comes into contact with mining activities,” said Eagle Mine environmental and permitting manager Kristen Mariuzza. “We are confident in the system and the methods being used to ensure that only clean water is released back into the environment.”

Becker said the partnership has tested water going into the treatment plant and coming out of it to see if the uranium is being removed. Results are due back from the lab next week.

Until then, Becker declined to speculate on the possible impact.
“Just the word (uranium) is going to be alarming to some people,” Becker said. “It’s helpful to know that the processes that are in place at the water treatment plant are the processes that EPA recommends as the best treatment. But until we have monitoring results that demonstrate the efficiency of that, we don’t want to speculate.”

Meanwhile, Blondeau said tests on solid wastes from the water treatment plant showed uranium levels consistent with Upper Peninsula geology in one waste test and none in another, indicating the treatment plant is successfully removing the uranium.

However, those results have not been substantiated independently by the partnership, which will make new similar tests next week. The solids removed by the process are disposed of at a municipal landfill.
When the initial leak sump water sample results were received from the lab in mid-March, partnership staff quickly returned to the mine to retest the water.

Expedited results from the partnership’s lab showed uranium levels of 61 and 58 parts per billion and no uranium in the contact water sump.
Rio Tinto’s test results from its samples and lab showed 56 parts per billion of uranium in the leak sump and a low concentration of 0.13 parts per billion in the contact water sump.

To help identify the source of the uranium, the partnership requested core samples from Rio Tinto in addition to samples of the waste rock and the aggregate used in the storage area leak detection liner.

Steve Casey, district supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s water resources division at K.I. Sawyer, said he thinks the uranium source may be the aggregate. If obtained from a Big Bay area quarry nearby, the material may contain Jacobsville sandstone.
The sandstone is known from several counties in the U.P. and its formation extends along the Lake Superior shoreline, east toward Big Bay.

Casey said the sandstone’s composition is known to include uranium, while the waste rock from the mine portal is not.

One Michigan Technological University study focused on testing bedrock wells in Jacobsville sandstone found 25 percent of 270 wells tested with uranium exceeding the EPA maximum concentration limits.

Casey characterized the uranium detection at the Eagle Mine as “not terribly surprising or uncommon.”

“We’ve seen numbers about three times that high in wells,” Casey said.
Casey said the DEQ tested 419 private wells and 20 percent exceeded the safe drinking water standard for uranium, including one well registering 202 parts per billion.

Western U.P. Health Department materials said uranium occurs naturally in some area bedrock and groundwater, making wells susceptible to contamination. High levels of uranium have been found in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw, Gogebic and Ontonagon counties.

The department said “the amount of uranium in bedrock and well water will vary greatly from place to place and without testing, it is not possible to determine if the water is safe for drinking.”

Health department officials said bathing and showering with water containing uranium is not a health concern.

Construction of the Eagle Mine’s rock storage area began in September 2010. By October, the secondary liner was installed and a leak survey performed. The primary liner, risers and the pumping system was completed by November.

In September 2011, the DEQ approved a certificate of quality assurance for construction of the liner systems. That same autumn, Rio Tinto began monitoring the rock storage area as it began digging the mine portal and storing waste rock.

Becker said early last year, Rio Tinto also discovered elevated sulfate levels, which periodically were above the reporting level and have been trending downward since August 2012.

A mining company investigation did not identify a source, but similar to Casey’s uranium source theory, Rio Tinto speculated a small amount of sulfate material was contained in the aggregate used to build the liner.

Monitoring of sulfates and uranium will continue regularly by Rio Tinto and the partnership, with results reported to the public at:www.cempmonitoring.org.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.


Doctors resign en masse over uranium exploration

The Montreal Gazette
December 4, 2009 1:58 PM

MONTREAL – Twenty doctors have handed in their resignations at the Centre hospitalier régional de Sept-Îles.
In an open letter addressed to Quebec Health Minister Yves Bolduc, the physicians say they have quit, as a group, to protest plans to build an uranium mine on the North Shore.
The protest comes on the heels of the introduction new government mining legislation, which does not impose a moratorium on uranium exploitation in Quebec.
The doctors say they fear for their own families’ health as well as for the health of the population in the region.
The letter’s signatories say they plan to leave the region and, in some cases, the province.
Lorraine Richard, the Parti Québécois MNA for Duplessis, says the doctors’ departure will be a disaster for health care in the Sept-Îles region.
The town of Sept-Îles, with a population of 26,000, is located on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, about 915 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

EPA: Uranium From Polluted British Petroleum Mine Found In Nevada Water Wells

SCOTT SONNER | 11/21/09 06:31 PM  Huffington Post

YERINGTON, Nev. — Peggy Pauly lives in a robin-egg blue, two-story house not far from acres of onion fields that make the northern Nevada air smell sweet at harvest time.

But she can look through the window from her kitchen table, just past her backyard with its swingset and pet llama, and see an ominous sign on a neighboring fence: “Danger: Uranium Mine.”

For almost a decade, people who make their homes in this rural community in the Mason Valley 65 miles southeast of Reno have blamed that enormous abandoned mine for the high levels of uranium in their water wells.

They say they have been met by a stone wall from state regulators, local politicians and the huge oil company that inherited the toxic site – BP PLC. Those interests have insisted uranium naturally occurs in the region’s soil and there’s no way to prove that a half-century of processing metals at the former Anaconda pit mine is responsible for the contamination.

That has changed. A new wave of testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that 79 percent of the wells tested north of the World War II-era copper mine have dangerous levels of uranium or arsenic or both that make the water unsafe to drink.

And, more importantly to the neighbors, that the source of the pollution is a groundwater plume that has slowly migrated from the 6-square-mile mine site.

The new samples likely never would have been taken if not for a whistleblower, a preacher’s wife, a tribal consultant and some stubborn government scientists who finally helped crack the toxic mystery that has plagued this rural mining and farming community for decades.

“They have completely ruined the groundwater out here,” said Pauly, the wife of a local pastor and mother of two girls who organized a community action group five years to seek the truth about the pollution.

“It almost sounds like we are happy the contamination has moved off the site,” she said. “But what we are happy about is … they have enough data to now answer our questions.”

“Prior to this, we didn’t really have an understanding of where water was moving,” said Steve Acree, a highly regarded hydrogeologist for the EPA in Oklahoma, who was brought in to examine the test results. “My interpretation at this stage of the process is yes, you now have evidence of mine-impacted groundwater.”

The tests found levels of uranium more than 10 times the legal drinking water standard in one monitoring well a half mile north of the mine. Though the health effects of specific levels are not well understood, the EPA says long-term exposure to high levels of uranium in drinking water may cause cancer and damage kidneys.

At the mine itself, wells tested as high as 3.4 milligrams per liter – more than 100 times the standard. That’s in an area where ore was processed with sulfuric acid and other toxic chemicals in unlined ponds.

Moving north toward the mine’s boundary and beyond, readings begin to decline but several wells still tested two to three times above health limits.

“The hot spots, the treatment areas on the site, are places you totally expect to see readings like that,” said Dietrick McGinnis, an environmental consultant for the neighboring Yerington Paiute Tribe. “But this shows you have a continuous plume with decreasing concentration as you move away from the site.”

The new findings are no surprise to Earle Dixon, the site’s former project manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which owns about half of the property.

An administrative judge ruled last year that the BLM illegally fired Dixon in 2004 in retaliation for speaking out about the health and safety dangers at the mine.

“The new data depicts the story that I had tried to hypothesize as a possibility,” Dixon told the AP.

“It was speculation, because I didn’t have the dramatic evidence they have now. You just had all the symptoms,” he said from New Mexico, where he is now a state geologist.

“The way the state has been telling the story and BP and Lyon County … is this is mostly all natural. Well, no it’s not,” he said. “We now know for a fact that most of this uranium as far as 2 miles out from the mine comes from the mine.

“This site becomes a poster child for mining pollution.”

Officials for BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, and its subsidiary Atlantic Richfield have insisted until now that the uranium could not be tied to the mine. They maintained the high concentrations were due to a naturally occurring phenomenon beneath Nevada’s mineral-laden mountains.

The new discovery has Pauly, McGinnis and others renewing a call for the EPA to declare the mine a Superfund site – something the state and county have opposed despite a new potential source of money to help cover cleanup costs that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Jill Lufrano, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, said an investigation into the source of contamination is continuing but “the new finding does put scientific confirmation behind the theory that this would migrate off site.”

She said the new evidence doesn’t change the state’s opposition to Superfund listing. Nevada has a long tradition of supporting mining and now produces more gold than anywhere in the world except China, South Africa and Australia.

Copper first was discovered around Yerington in 1865. Anaconda bought the property in 1941 and – fueled by demand after World War II – produced nearly 1.75 billion pounds of copper from 1952-78.

A mineral firm launched a then-secret plan to produce yellowcake uranium from the mine’s waste piles in the 1970s. An engineer reported in 1976 that they weren’t finding as much uranium as anticipated in the processing ponds. “Where could it be now?” he wrote. “Should we continue to look for it?”

Had they continued the search outside the processing area, Wyoming Mineral Corp. likely would have detected the movement of the contamination. But the market for uranium dipped and the company scuttled the venture.

Pauly never suspected the mine was leaking contamination when she and her husband finished building their home in 1990. They drank water from their well until 2003 – and used it to mix formula for a baby from 1996-98 – before becoming suspicious as rumors swirled about the contaminated mine.

“Everybody said it was fine,” she said. “Legally they didn’t have to disclose anything because technically there was nothing definitive then that showed the contamination was moving off the site.”

BP and Atlantic Richfield, which bought Anaconda Copper Co. in 1978, have stopped claiming there is no evidence the mine caused any contamination, but they aren’t conceding anything about how much.

“We know the mine has had an impact but to what extent is not really known at this time,” Tom Mueller, spokesman for BP America in Houston, told The Associated Press in a recent e-mail. He said the sampling “remains inconclusive regarding relative impacts from the mine” compared with other potential sources.

Yerington Paiute Tribe Chairman Elwood Emm said he hopes the new findings help expedite cleanup. “In the meantime, we continue to lose our water resource,” he said.

So who will pay for the cleanup?

“That is the million-dollar question,” Dixon said. “Every Superfund site needs an advocate or two or three and in my view there are none for Yerington except for Peggy Pauly.”

Regardless of who pays, Acree said, it likely will take decades to clean up.

Rio Tinto drops Prospecting Permit in Ottawa National Forest


On November 6, Rio Tinto notified the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Ottawa National Forest (ONF) that it no longer wishes to pursue mineral exploration in a 395 acre parcel of the Ottawa National Forest in Iron County known as the “Bates Parcel.”

Read:     rio_tinto_letter_terminating_prospecting_permit_on_bates_parcel1

This is good news to concerned residents and landowners who have been monitoring Kennecott’s mineral interests within the Ottawa National Forest and Iron River area.  Bob Rivera, concerned citizen says,

“Having grown up in the “dead zone” on the Iron River, a third of a mile from the Buck Mine, I am relieved that yet another site of potential pollution will not afflict our county which suffers from a higher than normal incidence of cancer.  Both the Buck and Sherwood mine sites are known to contain uraninite, a uranium-like mineral, which leaches into the Iron River and, perhaps, the watershed.

In the case of the Buck Mine, which continues to leach sulfides and other contaminants after decades of remediation, the DEQ’s supposition that the source is tailing heaps and old settling ponds (which overflowed directly into the river in the day) is based on shaky, conjectural science.  This stretch of river is riddled with abandoned mining works.

Unhappily, the State does not test for the presence of uranium-like minerals.  The absence of rigorous testing and sampling standards and effective enforcement procedures should further alarm any community faced by the depredations of a corporation infamous for its disregard for human (and other) life.  Anyone who tells you “Michigan has the strongest mining laws in the world!” is either duped or lying to you.  Rio Tinto’s abandonment of exploration at the Perch Lake site, while a small success for our movement, will have to be repeated many times by aroused and informed citizens if we are to preserve a viable environment.”

Read more  http://lakesuperiorminingnews.net/2009/11/19/rio-tinto-drops-michigan-exploration-proposal-on-public-forest-land/

Lawmakers downplay possibility of U.P. uranium mining

But mining company spent more than $700,000 on U.P. uranium exploration in 2009

By Michigan Messenger’s: Eartha Jane Melzer 11/13/09 2:12 PM


Upper Peninsula lawmakers are railing against a ballot measure to create standards for uranium mining, claiming that no uranium ore has been discovered in Michigan. However, a Canadian uranium mining company says it’s found uranium in the U.P., scientists have warned that its uranium exploration could harm groundwater, and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is warning that residential wells in several counties already have elevated levels of the radioactive metal.

In a statement this week, Sen. Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming), Sen. Jason Allen (R-Traverse City), Rep. Mike Lahti (D-Hancock), Rep. Steve Lindberg (D-Marquette) and Rep. Judy Nerat (D-Wallace) accused sponsors of a proposed 2010 ballot measure on mining of talking about uranium mining in order to scare people and destroy the mining industry.

“No ‘uranium mining’ activity has ever existed,” the lawmakers stated, “nor has any uranium ore been discovered, in our state.”

However, according to a July 2009 financial report from Bitterroot Resources Ltd., a 17-hole uranium exploration drilling program concluded last December “identified several areas which warrant additional exploration.” The company said it spent $717,403 on Michigan uranium exploration in the first nine months of 2009.

On the sections of the company website devoted to its Upper Peninsula uranium exploration Bitterroot states that early drilling “encountered a 0.6-metre interval containing 75 ppm U, including two 0.12-metre intervals containing more than 100 ppm U. These intervals are significant as they confirm that uranium-bearing fluids have been mobile within the Jacobsville Basin.”

The presence of uranium in this area is also known to local health officials. The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has issued a uranium advisory.

“Scattered drinking water sources in the Western Upper Peninsula have been found to contain uranium in amounts that exceed the federal Maximum Contaminant Level,” the health department states. “The source of the uranium may be the shale deposits that run inconsistently through the Jacobsville Sandstone formation. Water supplies with radioactivity have been found in Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon Counties.”

The department states that uranium-laced water may be associated with kidney damage and cancer and that people with wells constructed in the Jacobsville Sandstone formation should have their water tested for uranium.

Last year the National Forest Service granted permits for uranium exploration in the Ottawa National Forest and spokeswoman Lee Ann Atkinson told Michigan Messenger at the time that 50 test wells were authorized.

During the public comment period on this uranium exploration proposal by Trans Superior Resources, a subsidiary of Bitterroot Resources Ltd., Todd Warner, natural resources director for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, noted that the company’s plan to bury drill cuttings on Forest Service land could result in radioactive compounds leaching into area groundwater.

“If a uranium ore body is disturbed in its natural geological setting, radium and polonium will inevitably be released into our environment,” Warner wrote in comments entered into the record. “The Forest Service has not noted that any additional or added precautions or testing is being required due to the potential or likely presence of uranium, radium, polonium and other radioactive elements.”

Because of the risk of chemical reactions that can cause minerals to contaminate the water supply, metallic mining requires permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said Hal Fitch, director of the agency’s Office of Geological Survey. But due to what Fitch called “a weakness in the statute,” exploratory mineral wells in the rocky western half of the Upper Peninsula are exempt from permit requirements.

In the case of the uranium test wells in the national forests, the DEQ will visit and observe operations after being voluntarily contacted by the mining company, Fitch said.

The Michigan Save Our Water Committee says U.P. lawmakers are mischaracterizing their proposed ballot initiative.

“We are not talking about banning future uranium mining,” said spokesman Duncan Campbell. “We don’t have any regulations covering uranium, all we are asking that we have some regulations to cover uranium.”

Read more!

Houghton Mining Gazette writer, Kurt Hauglie covers the issue:


Gail Griffith responds to Shawn Carlson Letter to Mining Journal Editor:

No U.P Uranium?

In a recent letter to the Mining Journal titled “No U.P. Uranium”, there is a statement:  “There is no uranium ore anywhere in the state of Michigan.” The important word here is “ore”, which is defined as a naturally occurring material that can be profitably mined. This does not mean that there is no uranium in the state of Michigan. It means that no one has yet found of a profitable ore body.

The evidence for the presence  of uranium in the U.P. is strong.  The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department has issued an advisory for people with water wells in the Jacobsville sandstone formation in the Keweenaw Peninsula to have their water tested for uranium, because a 2003 study by a group at Michigan Tech found that about 25% of 300 wells tested in the area had levels of uranium  above what is considered safe by the national Environmental Protection Agency.

Since 2003, Bitterroot Resources has been exploring for uranium in the Ottawa State Forest in the Jacobsville sandstone.  In 2007, they found small amounts of uranium in drill cores.  Cameco, a Canadian company that is  one of the world’s biggest uranium suppliers, has given Bitterroot $1.7 million to do further exploration on the site.  New drilling was done in 2008, and the results are now being evaluated for follow-up.  Given that uranium prices have gone down from a peak of $140/lb. in 2004 to about $45/lb. today, even if this uranium body is large or rich, it may not be profitable now, but may well be later.

Mining for uranium is currently done by an process called in-situ leaching (ISL). This method does’t bring any ore to the surface, but rather pumps chemically-treated water into and through the ore body to dissolve the uranium and brings it to the surface, where it is extracted.  Treated water is pumped back in to dissolve more uranium.  The question is, where does the water come from, and where does it go?

Uranium deposits suitable for ISL are found  in permeable sand or sandstone that must be protected above and below by impermeable rock, and which are below the water table. This means that if there is any connection or leakage into any other water source, that water will be contaminated with uranium.   Further, the water used in the ISL process can’t be effectively restored to natural groundwater purity.

Michigan’s new Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining law.was written to deal with the threat of pollution by metallic sulfide ores and wastes that can create acidic, metal- laden water that must be carefully purified before being  released into the environment.  During the rule-making process, it was pointed out that uranium is a nonferrous metal, and could be mined under these rules, even though there were no provisions for the special precautions needed for radioactive materials.  The response by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was that, yes, the “rules would apply to uranium mining, however, if uranium mining appears imminent, then the DEQ will review these rules for their adequacy to regulate such mining and determine revisions that may be needed”.

Part of the proposed  MIWater Ballot Initiative language speaks to this issue by  prohibiting uranium mining until new rules have been established.  It is clear that such rules are needed now, and a vote for the initiative would ensure this.  It’s all about our  water.

Gail Griffith
Retired Professor of Chemistry
Northern Michigan University

No U.P. uranium

To the Journal editor:
We’ve all heard the arguments. “Michigan must preserve its proud mining heritage.” Then the counter: “Our environment must be protected from sulfide and uranium mining.” And so the tired argument trudges on, the latest installment of which being known as the MiWater Ballot Initiative. An argument with no clear victors, perhaps for good reason – both sides have some fair points: mining is a valuable industry, but the environment is important, too. If only there were a tie-breaker, something to tip the scales and guide the undecided. Well perhaps there is – the issue of education.

One of the goals of the MiWater Ballot Initiative is to restrict “uranium mining” in Michigan, in response to local activists’ proclamations that “uranium ore” has already been found and that mining could be imminent; one popular calendar says uranium mining has already been proposed and another Web site calls it planned. The problem is, none of that is true.
As contributor to the “Mineralogy of Michigan” textbook and recipient of the Friends of Mineralogy award for a study of Michigan uranium, I present my knowledge as authoritative, so here are the scientific facts.

There is no uranium ore anywhere in the state of Michigan. And since there is no uranium ore, there are neither proposed uranium mines, nor planned uranium mines; statements to the contrary are absurd.

Yes, there has been uranium exploration throughout Michigan since about 1949, but this work has found squat; in the words of one geologist, “If you took all of Michigan’s uranium and threw in 50 cents, you’d have enough to buy a cup of coffee.” Michigan simply lacks mineable uranium deposits, and the finest mineralogists alive today (e.g., George Robinson, Michigan Tech University) do not believe any will be found – ever.

One of the concerns of environmental activism is the lack of credible scientific information within these groups, as exposed in a recent Newsweek article (April 2008). And that’s a problem. At a time when the greatest questions facing us globally (climate change), nationally (energy independence) and locally (mining) all involve science, we owe it to our children to teach real science – not pseudoscience.

I therefore ask readers to oppose this new ballot initiative. Supporting it isn’t necessarily a vote to protect Michigan water; that remains to be seen. But it is a vote against the integrity of science education. And that’s unacceptable because it damages us all.

Shawn M. Carlson
Adjunct Instructor
Northern Michigan University

MIWater Speaker in Marquette, Thursday, November 12

Save the Wild UP will host its Annual Fall Fundraiser Social on Thursday, November 12 at the Upfront & Company, downtown Marquette, from 6:30 – 11:00 pm. The evening will include a silent auction, appetizers, cash bar, guest speaker, Duncan Campbell, and live music by the Amnesians, a local classic rock band.

8:00 Rally for Water!!!    Speaker: Duncan Campbell

Highlighting the evening will be Duncan Campbell, member of the Save Our Water Committee speaking at 8:00 about the 2010 ballot initiative to protect Michigan’s fresh water resources. Campbell is treasurer for the  Committee and is directing its MiWater ballot initiative campaign. He states, “It is clear the only way to give voice to this threat (sulfide mining) and win the battle for pure water is to take the message to Michigan voters directly via a ballot initiative campaign. This is a powerful and effective tool and provides a grassroots political front to let people take action not only throughout the Lower Peninsula but across the Great Lakes Region and beyond.”

MiWater members will be on hand with information and handouts all evening.

South Road – Projected Pollution Corridor

(Based on findings from the Red Dog Mine in Alaska)

A study done by the National Park Service in Alaska illustrates the dangers of the Kennecott South Haul Road. The Red Dog Mine in Alaska has a 51 mile haul road, and heavy metal pollution from Fugitive Dust flying off mining trucks has severely polluted the frozen tundra over a mile away from the road. Despite damning evidence of the pollution, nothing has been done, and plans for a second mine are currently being approved.

Below are maps from the NPS study, indicating the extent of pollution at the Red Dog Mine, as well as a projected pollution map for the proposed south road. In Alaska they were dealing with Lead and Zinc, and the problem of sulfuric acid drainage was non-existent because of very little precipitation and permafrost; in the U.P. we will be looking at Uranium dust, Sulfuric Acid, Zinc, Nickel, etc.

“Anchorage, Alaska – Today, Alaska Community Action on Toxics released newly discovered information concerning high levels of lead and zinc contamination at the Red Dog Mine port site. A monitoring program conducted at the Red Dog mine’s port site in the mid-1990s found lead levels in soils as high as 36,000 parts per million (“ppm”) and zinc levels as high as 180,000 ppm, far in excess of state cleanup standards of 1,000 ppm for lead and 8,100 ppm for zinc. Although the monitoring program was conducted at the request of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), this information was never released to the public.”
Read More

Pb Pollution Corridor

Pb Pollution Corridor

Projected Pollution if the U.P. were covered by permafrost. In actuality, the corridor of pollution would likely be much larger because the U.P. is covered with flowing water.

Southroad Projected Pollution

Southroad Projected Pollution

“The Red Dog Mine Haul Road traverses 24 miles of National Park Service (NPS) lands in Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR), Alaska. Ore trucks use the road to transport 1.1 million dry tons of lead-zinc concentrate annually from the mine to a port site on the Chukchi Sea. In the summer of 2000, moss and soil samples were collected from six transects perpendicular to the haul road in CAKR. Laboratory analyses were performed on the moss Hylocomium splendens, soil parent material, road dust, and substrate from materials sites. Analysis revealed a strong road-related gradient in heavy metal deposition. H. splendens was highly enriched in lead (Pb > 400 mg/kg), zinc (Zn > 1800 mg/kg), and cadmium (Cd > 12 mg/kg) near the haul road. Concentrations decreased rapidly with distance from the road, but remained elevated at transect endpoints 1000 m – 1600 m from the road (Pb >30 mg/kg, Zn >165 mg/kg, Cd >0.6 mg/kg). Samples collected on the downwind (north) side of the road had generally higher concentrations of heavy metals than those collected on the upwind (south) side.”
Read More

Read the NPS Full Report

Over 250 Attend Film Critical of DEQ and Kennecott in Marquette

Over 250 people attended a December 7 showing of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) new film, “Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance.” The film was shown at Northern Michigan University.

The film focused on questionable behavior, at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, in permitting approval of Kennecott’s Eagle Mine application and featured members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), mining, geology and water quality experts, as well as UP State Senator, Mike Prusi.

Retired mining engineer and expert on local mine geology and rock mechanics, Jack Parker, attended the showing and participated in a panel that answered audience questions. According to Parker, because Kennecott’s plan is riddled with “errors and omissions” and looks like “an amateur had written the application,” the plan is “all bullshit” and the DEQ should “throw it out.”

Parker, who says he is adamantly “not against mining,” has over 60 years of mining experience and has worked on over 500 mining operations, including about ten years at the White Pine Mine.

According to Parker, Kennecott plans to leave much of the ore behind, taking only the richest available. Parker maintains that, since much of the ore is owned by the people of Michigan, mining only the high-grade and leaving the rest is “not responsible mining.”

The film focuses on the cover-up of a rock mechanics report highly critical of Kennecott’s mining operation. In March 2007, the DEQ was forced to withdraw proposed approval of the project when NWF pressed the agency for a report, commissioned by the DEQ, that criticized Kennecott for not using “industry best-practice” and maintained that the company’s conclusions were “not defensible.” The report noted the possibility that the roof of the mine could collapse, endangering workers and draining a branch of the Salmon Trout River.

In the initial report, reference was made to local mines, with similar geology, that have suddenly collapsed. This has occurred at the Athens Mine, west of Marquette. Subsequent versions of the report omitted any reference to case history that could affect permitting of Kennecott’s project.

Joe Maki, geologist with the DEQ’s Office of Geological Survey and Mine Team Coordinator for review of Kennecott’s application, acknowledged that he personally discarded the report, considering it “not useful” and “too technical.” Maki was absolved of wrong-doing through an investigation conducted by an unqualified former DNR employee who interviewed only DEQ employees for his assessment.

In the film, Senator Prusi said that Kennecott has not shown “good corporate stewardship” at some of its other operations and that he is “not fully confident” in the Michigan DEQ’s ability to monitor Kennecott’s activities effectively. Prusi acknowledged possessing little knowledge regarding the legal importance of Native American treaty rights.

KBIC member Pauline Spruce said that Kennecott’s plans to construct its mine portal at Eagle Rock, a culturally-significant site for area Native Americans, violates the Native American Freedom of Religion Act of 1979.

The film highlights communication from the DEQ’s Steve Wilson referring to Native American treaty rights as a “trump card” that could affect approval of the Eagle Mine.

According to NWF attorney, Michelle Halley, who hosted the event, at a recent contested case involving the DEQ’s mine project approval not one of Kennecott’s witnesses would personally guarantee the success of any portion of the mine.

Engineer Dr. Stanley Vitton, from Michigan Technological University, said that he was “shocked” when he discovered that companies can drill, without a permit, in nearly every part of the Western UP and cited Kennecott’s mine safety projections as inadequate. “Five percent [fail rate of the mine’s roof] is not acceptable.”

Parker compared Kennecott’s mine plan to a used car that looks decent, initially, but upon closer inspection has “doors that don’t fit,” “drips” and, when you kick the tire, “the wheel falls off.” According to Parker, Kennecott’s application is “deceptive, therefore illegal.”

Under Michigan’s new metallic mining laws, “A person who…intentionally makes a false statement, representation, or certification in an application for or form pertaining to a permit…is guilty of a felony and may be imprisoned for not more than 2 years.”

According to Halley and film co-producer, Angela Nebel, NWF plans to organize future showings of the film throughout the state. The film will be available on the NWF website.