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E-M:/ Judge suspends sulfide mining plan; DEQ cites 91 concerns

For Immediate Release

June 22, 2006


Contact:  Michelle Halley

               National Wildlife Federation: 906-361-0520 

               Hugh McDiarmid Jr.

               Michigan Environmental Council: 517-487-9539



Mine Deficiencies Illustrate Danger to Health, Resources of Upper Peninsula

Judge cites problems, State Regulators Find 91 Shortcomings with Kennecott’s Risky Gamble



An international mining company’s risky plan to extract nickel, along with hundreds of thousands of tons of acid-leaching waste, from underneath a pristine Michigan trout stream should be denied, environmental groups said Thursday in the wake of a judge’s decision that the mine plan must be suspended while legal challenges are heard.


In a separate blow to Kennecott Minerals’ credibility, state regulators this week identified 91 instances of technical deficiencies or insufficient data with the company’s plans.


“The state’s findings and the court’s ruling support our position that this application has too many unanswered questions, and the risks are too high,” said Brad Garmon of the Michigan Environmental Council. “The State of Michigan has moved beyond this 19th century mentality of risking prize waters like the Salmon-Trout River for fewer than 100 temporary jobs. We’ve learned our lesson; the jobs disappear, the profits flow to international companies, and Michigan’s residents are left with the pollution.”


Michigan Department of Environmental Quality experts cited 91 problems with the Kennecott application, including concerns about the integrity of liners designed to prevent acid from leaking into waterways and questions about how the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler would be protected.


 “The DEQ’s outline of the application’s shortcomings and deficiencies sends a clear message that this mine can not operate safely and without undue risk to the environment,” said Marvin Roberson of the Sierra Club. “The sulfide mining proposed by Kennecott is a type of mining never done before in Michigan, and one with a legacy of resource degradation, collapse, heavy metal pollution and failures of safety liners and monitoring equipment.”


Future-focused economic development is the key to a vital Upper Peninsula economy – tourism, hiking, fishing, snow sports, hunting and environmentally-friendly business. Sulfuric acid adjacent to trout streams does not fit into that future.


Michelle Halley, an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation, applauded Thursday’s ruling from Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula J.M. Manderfield, and said the state needs to be more rigorous in protecting the U.P.’s assets from Kennecott.


“This ruling indicates that the DEQ needs to increase the level of scrutiny and hold Kennecott accountable for the shortcomings. A plan with such potentially devastating consequences must be able to answer tough questions about every aspect of its operation. So far they haven’t been able to.”


The Michigan Environmental Council represents 73 environmental and public interest organizations with a combined membership of more than 250,000 Michigan residents. It provides research, communications, technical and political support to maintain a strong environmental voice at the local, state and federal levels.









Hugh McDiarmid Jr.

Communications Director

Michigan Environmental Council