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E-M:/ Press Release: Prelim Mine Permit puts U.P. Resources at Risk




July 30, 2007


 Hugh McDiarmid Jr., Michigan Environmental Council: 248-660-4300

Brian Beauchamp, MI League of Conservation Voters Education Fund: 734-904-9915

Marvin Roberson, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter: 906-360-0288


Proposed Mine Approval Puts U.P. Resources in Jeopardy

MDEQ preliminary decision ignores gaping holes in mine plan



Preliminary approval for a flawed Upper Peninsula nickel mine granted today by state regulators ignores gaping shortcomings in the mining safety plan and puts the region’s economy and natural resources at risk, said the Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter.


The groups contend that Kennecott Minerals Corporation has not demonstrated it can mine without wrecking area rivers and groundwater.


“This is the first of what may be an influx of applications to do this new and dangerous type of mining in the U.P.” said Michigan Environmental Council Spokesman Hugh McDiarmid Jr. “It’s gambling the future of this entire region of the U.P. for the payoff of a few dozen temporary jobs. When the minerals are gone, so will the London-based mining company, so it’s important we hold them to the highest environmental standards.


“But instead of setting tough standards to protect water quality and public health, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) seems content to allow vague assurances for parts of this plan rather than rock-solid specifics. They’re setting the bar too low.”


The mine would be the first in the U.P.’s modern era to drill in a sulfide rock formation. That type of rock, when brought to the surface, leaches sulfuric acid and toxic heavy metals. If handled improperly, the pollutants could devastate the pristine headwaters of the Salmon-Trout River and contaminate Lake Superior.


Sulfide mines elsewhere have a dark legacy of resource degradation, collapse, heavy-metal pollution, and undetected and untreatable failures of safety liners and monitoring equipment.

”We’ve read the same application as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and we don’t see how they arrive at the conclusion that this is a viable permit” said Brad Garmon, land programs director with MEC. “Michigan leaders drafted legislation and rules specifically to protect the UP’s most valuable asset—its environment. The state’s people and leaders are being undercut by a flawed application of that law. Any permit application that fails to satisfy the most basic requirements should be denied and sent back to the drawing board.”


The review process by the MDEQ has been plagued with missteps and errors.

The process was halted in March when environmental groups discovered that MDEQ had not made key mining safety documents available to the public. Those documents questioned the safety of the mine’s key support structure.

"It's disappointing that we're right back to where we started months ago,” said Brian Beauchamp, spokesman for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. “Preliminary approval to move forward with a permit for this mine is flawed and puts Michigan's waters at risk. Citizens who have been following this issue are not going to be happy."