April 2006 Views
DEQ Public Hearing on sulfide mining: Apr. 18, 2006
By Ted Soldan
HOUGHTON -- Several members of the FOLK (Friends of the Land of Keweenaw) steering committee attended the DEQ
(Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) public hearing on Kennecott
Minerals Company's proposed Eagle Project sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains east of Marquette. Included were myself (Ted
Soldan), Fran Whitman, Milt Salo, and Connie Sherry. The sessions were divided into two parts. The first was a two-hour informal session where members of the DEQ staff reviewing the permit
application made themselves available for questions and comments. The second part was a scheduled
90-minute public comment session where concerned citizens could sign up and give a 90-second comment to DEQ officials.
The first session was very informative, allowing serious questions to be asked and thoughtful answers received. I learned several important things from this session, including the fact that the ore body to be extracted is directly below the Salmon Trout River. The concrete pillars Kennecott is proposing to install as the ore is removed will be crucial to avoid subsidence, which could cause serious ecological harm to the clean waters flowing through this area.
| View of the Salmon Trout River. Kennecott Minerals
Co. proposes to extract a valuable mineral deposit directly below this
river. (File photo ©
2004 and courtesy Eagle Alliance. Reprinted with permission.)
For the second session, the amount of time allowed for each speaker was determined by the moderator by taking the number minutes available and dividing that by the number of requests to speak. Ninety seconds was much too short for many speakers, especially those that had prepared their speeches in advance. The moderator attempted to keep most speakers limited to the time allotted, although several speakers refused to stop speaking at the end of their time.
I was asked to speak first; and I talked about the economic impact copper
mining had on our community and whether this positive benefit outweighed the disadvantages our community is stuck with, including a toxic superfund site (Torch
Lake). I suggested the DEQ folks do a study to see if our mine was a plus or minus in terms of economics so they could gauge the potential impact the proposed mine on the Yellow Dog may have on future generations.
Several members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) also spoke. They pointed out the only cultural artifacts the permit application recognized were old logging camps. Members of the KBIC took exception to this, stating
that their people had inhabited this area for generations and that potential Native American cultural sites should be added to the permit. They also reminded the DEQ that their band still retains hunting and fishing rights to the
area but has not been consulted by either Kennecott or the state regarding the proposed mine's impact on these rights.
The moderator informed the crowd at 9:30 p.m. that NMU would allow us to stay until
10 p.m. but no later. When 10 p.m. rolled around, they attempted to halt the proceedings, even though several people had not yet been called to speak. Several demanded their right to speak, and, when they were denied, approached the microphone and spoke anyway. The fact that speakers were limited to such a short
time and that some were denied their right to be heard ended the session on a sour note for many.
The DEQ will accept written comments on the Kennecott sulfide mining proposal
until the close of business on Tuesday, May 16, 2006.*
Please address letters to:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Geological Survey
525 W. Allegan,
P. O. Box 30256
Lansing, MI 48909-7756
Alternatively, forward email comments to: Steven E. Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest columnist Ted Soldan recently retired from a 22-year career at Michigan Tech involving computer support and
theatre set construction. He is now able to devote more time to his volunteer activities, which include FOLK (Friends of the Land of
Keweenaw,) the North Country Trail Association, and the Michigan Nature Association. Ted and his wife Alice live on
120 acres of hills, streams, and ponds in Elo. Ted is the editor of the
newsletter for Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK). See the March 2006
newsletter on the FOLK Web
site for an account of the December 6, 2005, DEQ hearings in Lansing
on the proposed rules for non-metallic mining in Michigan. The rules are
now posted on the DEQ Web site at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ogs-land-mining-metallicmining-lawsandrules-Part632.pdf
To read more about the Apr.18 DEQ hearing, see the Apr. 19, 2006,
article, "DEQ gets an earful: Mine hearing packs the house" on
the Marquette Mining
Journal Web site.
See Kennecott's application at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/documents/deq-ogs-land-mining-metallicmining-EagleAppWeb.pdf.
The Eagle Project -- for mining a small, high-grade nickel-copper deposit
-- is described on Kennecott's
Web site. Also visit the sites of
Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, Save the Wild
U.P., the Eagle Alliance and the Yellow
Dog Watershed for information on the sulfide mining project.
Views expressed by our guest columnists are not necessarily the views of Keweenaw Now.
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