Lawsuit Challenging U.P. Sulfide Mine Land Lease Dismissed

A Circuit Court Judge Has Ruled That The DNR Acted Appropriately When It Leased Land For A Controversial Sulfide Mine

Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield dismissed a lawsuit file by opponents of a controversial sulfide mine that Kennecott Eagle Minerals is trying to open in Michigan’s Marquette County.

According to the Associated Press, the court ruled that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) acted appropriately when it decided to lease 120 acres of state land to the company:

“Manderfield said in her ruling Tuesday the DNR had not broken any laws and had acted within its authority by leasing the property to Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co., which wants to put the mine’s surface facilities there.”

The judge argued that she could rule only on matters of jurisdiction, not the merits of the mine.

Last month, it was announced that the mine is temporarily on hold due to the current economic situation. However, Kennecott is still moving forward with efforts to secure the permits necessary for the mine’s construction.

Additionally, a decision in a hearing over the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) issuance of permits for the mine is forthcoming.

UP Sulfide Mine on Hold

The Kennecott Minerals Eagle Project Sulfide Mine is on Hold

Buried within a 38-page assessment of mining company Rio Tinto’s fiscal performance is an announcement that the company has put plans to develop a controversial sulfide mine on hold. Rio Tinto–the parent company of Kennecott Eagle Minerals–says that the mine in Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been “deferred until market conditions recover.”

However, the company plans to continue efforts to obtain a permit and open the mine once the market improves:

“We are continuing to work on our permits, litigation, and engineering design so that when the opportunity presents itself we will be poised to evaluate economic conditions and our next steps.”

In response, Save The Wild UP–a group organizing against the mine–said:

“The Eagle permit application has been criticized by experts in the field as being ‘worthless’ and should be thrown out. The testimony given in the contested case against the Michigan DEQ and DNR proves that these agencies did not follow the law when evaluating and approving the mine permit. Thousands of citizens have signed petitions, written letters, and testified before the DEQ in efforts to bring attention to this project. Rio Tinto has not responded to the overwhelming public protest against Eagle project and remains isolated in London from these real issues surrounding Eagle.”

Documentary Explores Resistance to Sulfide Mining in the UP

A new documentary–viewable online–takes a look at the opposition to a proposed sulfide mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Critics warn that the mine could lead to irreparable harm to Michigan’s water.

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Over the past two years, MediaMouse.org has been consistently impressed by the organizing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula against a proposed sulfide mine. We’ve covered the issue, becoming one of the few down state sources that have bothered to cover the mine.

That’s why we were excited to hear that a new documentary called “Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance” has been released to tell the story of resistance to the mine. The documentary looks at the likely consequences of the mine–pollution and the destruction of a watershed–and those that have stood up to stop the mine. This includes environmental activists, the indigenous community, ordinary citizens, sportsmen, and others who are concerned about the mine. Along the way, they have been met by an unresponsive state government.

The documentary is viewable below, but we strongly encourage people to order a copy and use it to educate their friends, families, and communities about the dangers of sulfide mining:

For more on the mine, visit SaveTheWildUP.org.

Granholm’s UP Director Resigns to Work as Lobbyist for Mining Company

Governor Granholm’s director of the Governor’s Office for the Upper Peninsula has resigned to work in “government relations” for a controversial mining company whom he often spoke with on behalf of the governor.

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Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s director of the Governor’s Office for the Upper Peninsula has resigned to work for a controversial mining company.

Matt Johnson–who held the position–has been the governor’s representative on a number of key decisions pertaining to a proposed sulfide mine in the Upper Peninsula. That mine would be operated by Rio Tinto (the parent company of Kennecott), whom now employs Johnson as a “Government Relations” official. Johnson was the governor’s contact on sulfide mining since 2003, working with the governor and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to formulate laws regulating sulfide mining and providing her with talking points on the mine.

Unfortunately, this kind of “revolving door” is common for government officials, with regulators frequently moving between government positions and private sector jobs–often with the very companies they were charged to review. Michigan has particularly weak laws on this issue. Other states often require a one year (or longer) period to elapse before officials can take positions with private sector companies.

This is not the first time that Granholm’s administration has been criticized for its close ties to Kennecott. Back in 2007, environmental groups called for the removal Hal Fitch, a DEQ official who was allegedly responsible for withholding key reports critical of the mine’s safety.

“Protect the Earth Summit” in the UP to Address Sulfide Mining

Groups organizing against a controversial sulfide mine in the Upper Peninsula have planned a two-day rally for the first weekend of August to keep the pressure on Kennecott and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

A rally called the “Protect the Earth Summit: On the Shores of Gichigami” is planned for August 2nd and 3rd by opponents of metallic sulfide mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The event–taking place in Marquette and on the Yellow Dog Plains–will feature speakers from Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario who will talk about their success in stopping uranium exploration and sulfide mining across the Great Lakes region. The event is being sponsored by Yellow Dog Summer, Keepers of the Water, and Students Against Sulfide Mining, with funding provided by the Western Mining Action Network and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

For more information, visit YellowDogSummer.wordpress.com.

Save the Wild UP, another group in the Upper Peninsula organizing against sulfide mining, recently published a piece titled “Kennecott’s Stuck in the Mud: Sulfide Mining Not A Done Deal” that explains that despite Kennecott’s proclomations, there are still many roadblocks remaining before the mine can begin operations.

Sulfide Mining Protest Friday

The group Coaster Brook Earth First! has planned West Michigan’s first protest against sulfide mining. It will take place on Friday at the offices of Warner, Norcross, & Judd, a law firm representing Kennecott Minerals.

Coaster Brook Earth First! has planned the first protest in West Michigan against sulfide mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It will take place at the offices of Warner, Norcross, & Judd, a law firm representing Kennecott Minerals.

“July 11 – Noon

5/3rd Building (111 Lyon St)

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Join Coaster Brook Earth First! for a protest at the offices of Warner, Norcross, and Judd, LLP in downtown Grand Rapids. The law firm is providing legal counsel to Kennecott Minerals, a company seeking to open a controversial sulfide mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Mining in sulfide-rich areas produces acid mine drainage–sulfuric acid that can leak into nearby wells, streams, and lakes. Mining on the Yellow Dog Plains could alter water quality and flow, devastating this fragile eco-system and threatening the health of various waterways.

Help Promote the Protest:

Full Size Poster

Quarter Sheet Handout

Government to Rule on Threatened Trout Species

After waiting almost a year, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that it will soon decide whether or not to launch a study of the coaster brook trout and the effects that the a proposed sulfide mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would have on its population.

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service has announced that it will soon decide whether or not it will review the status of the coaster brook trout, a trout species that opponents of the Eagle Project mine say is threatened by the sulfide mine. The Salmon Trout River–whose headwaters are located at the location of the proposed mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula–is the only stream on the south shore of Lake Superior with a spawning coaster brook trout population. Last year, the Huron Mountain Club and the Sierra Club asked the Fish & Wildlife Service to study the trout population and the effects of the sulfide mine. According to the federal agency, it will decide by “the end of September” whether or not to undertake a year long study of the issue.

Meanwhile, organizing against the mine continues in the Upper Peninsula, as well as in lower Michigan. Last weekend, the group Coaster Brook Earth First! did tabling and outreach at the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts about the dangers of the proposed sulfide mine.

Video Emphasizes that Fight over Sulfide Mining is not Over

Save the Wild UP–one of the most visible organizations fighting to stop a proposed sulfide mine in Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula–has released a new video emphasizing that the proposed mine is not a “done deal.” Whereas mining companies traditionally try to portray people as powerless to stop the mine, Save the Wild UP reminds people that with continued organizing the mine can still be stopped:

DNR Awards Permit and Lease for Sulfide Mine

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On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources granted final approval to Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to lease public land in order to open a controversial sulfide mine near Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula pending the resolution of court cases against the proposed mine. The lease–along with a “Mining and Reclamation Plan”–was approved by the DNR despite mine opponents’ objections to the plan. Opponents argued that there are specific problems regarding how Kennecott will address subsidence and leak prevention, that the state has an inadequate enforcement budget, and that the lease is a form of corporate welfare.

The National Wildlife Federation said in a press release that the decision amounted to “corporate welfare. Michelle Halley, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said the announcement on Thursday by the DNR to grant Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company (KEMC) the unprecedented lease is a clear-cut case of “the DNR sacrificing public land for private gain.”

Despite the awarding of the permit, opponents of the mine expressed hope that they still will be able to stop the construction of the mine. They cited the fact that the permit and lease do not go into affect until pending court cases are resolved, as well as Kennecott’s need for a permit from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Thus far, Kennecott has apparently not applied for the required permit from the EPA.

To that end, mine opponents–including Save the Wild UP–are encouraging people to send a letter to federal officials opposing the mine.

DEQ Approves Permits for Kennecott’s Sulfide Mine

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced today that it has approved a series of permits requested by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company for a proposed sulfide mine near Marquette, Michigan. The permits had been opposed by citizens and environmental groups at public hearings and via written public comments. In response to the decision, Save the Wild UP issued a joint press release with the National Wildlife Federation, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, Michigan Environmental Council, and the Huron Mountain Club expressing continued opposition to the DEQ’s decision.

In the strongly worded press release, the groups assert that the permit does not meet the intent or conditions in Michigan’s sulfide mining law and question whether the DEQ took seriously the technical comments submitted by mine experts, including 700 pages of analysis and predictions of environmental devastation. The groups are planning to continue challenging the permits via administrative and legal action. The mine must still get at least one permit from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and must receive permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use 120 acres of state land via a 40-year lease.

Save the Wild UP has planned a rally on Monday in Marquette and has issued the following call for people living outside Marquette:

“If you do not live in the Marquette area, consider showing your opposition to the proposed Kennecott project in your neighborhood. Put a sign in your yard, get a group of people together in your city center, or write a letter to the editor!”