December 2005 Views
Sulfide Mining Unacceptable
By Diane Miller
HOUGHTON -- I am grateful to the Friends of the Land of the Keweenaw (FOLK), the League of Women Voters of the Copper
Country and the Michigan Tech GEM Center for Science and Environmental Outreach for sponsoring the recent forum on sulfide mining in the Upper Peninsula. I am appalled by several things I learned at the forum, especially as
regards the DEQ (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality).
For one thing, rather than discussing whether sulfide mining will be approved for the Yellow Dog and Salmon Trout rivers, the DEQ's focus seems to be on the rules regarding the mining activity -- as if, in effect, it is already a given that it will happen. Joe Maki,
DEQ Upper Peninsula District geologist, also disclosed that the funds for salaries of the DEQ employees charged with monitoring mining sites are provided by the very companies applying for permits, and he did not see this as a conflict of interest.*
Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the effort to comfort the audience with the information that a large bond will be required in case cleanup is needed. This is disturbing for several reasons:
First, there seems to be consensus that no mining operation of this sort has ever left a site undamaged, and cleanup has not been successful.
Second, and more importantly, we need to examine carefully the assumption that we can protect a watershed with a financial assurance bond. If it were possible to mitigate environmental damage with money, I wonder what that price would be. An amount of money to accomplish that task simply does not exist.
Third, people who have spent time on these rivers know that a project to construct a footprint for the mining operation itself on this site --
not even considering the inevitable damage it will do if it is allowed -- should be unthinkable.
As a society we need to become educated about what these metals are used for, and do some serious thinking about how to reduce our consumption of these -- as well as other -- materials, regardless of what it means to our precious
lifestyle. It's time to stop operating from the premise that we have a right to dig whatever we please out of the earth regardless of the impact.
I have to confess that for those of us with a lot of other things to do, it had previously been tempting to feel that we do not have enough time to become involved in this issue; after all, the proposed mining site is in Marquette County, where hundreds of people have been showing up at meetings, with some of them traveling to Lansing for hearings.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that stopping this devastation -- which the DEQ seems to consider already a "go" -- is not going to be at
all easy and that we need to get involved in trying to stop it. We heard that we have until
Dec. 19 to make comments. Even though lawmakers and the DEQ are expecting comments regarding mining rules, I hope that
what they hear from us is that this activity is completely unacceptable.
|*Editor's Notes: In addition to Joe Maki,
panelists at the forum included Dave Anderson of Flintsteel Restoration Association, a nonprofit environmental consulting group active in the Lake Superior basin; Ted
Bornhorst, professor of economic and engineering geology at Michigan Tech; and Alex Mayer, MTU professor of geological and environmental engineering.
Although he was scheduled to participate on the panel, Jon Cherry, Manager of Environment and Governmental Affairs for Kennecott Minerals
Company was unable to attend. About 100 persons attended the forum.
The rules for Part 632 governing non-ferrous metallic mineral mining can be
viewed on the DEQ
Web site. Comments must be received by December 19, 2005. Send to: Office
of Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 30256, Lansing, MI 48909-7756. Phone: 517-241-1515 / FAX:
517-241-1595 / E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest columnist Diane Miller is a graduate student in the
Department of Humanities at Michigan Technological University. She is
active in silent sports such as biking, skiing and kayaking.
Visit the Keweenaw Now discussion forums to comment
on this article.
Views expressed by our guest columnists are not necessarily the views of Keweenaw Now.
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