UP Mining Battles

22 Dec 2011

While most of us have been reading about Congress and the Keystone Pipeline, a less well known battle has been going on in Lansing, Marquette and Washington involving a Michigan mining project.  Kennecott Eagle Minerals has been pursuing state and federal permits to open and operate the Eagle Mine in western Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

When open, Eagle Mine will reportedly be the only primary nickel mine in the U.S., and is projected to produce 300 million pounds of nickel, 250 million pounds of copper and small amounts of other metals beginning in late 2013.

Recently, The US EPA told the Mine that it did not need a federal permit to build the mine.  EPA had previously said that federal approval was needed because the mine’s wastewater discharge system would operate below the earth’s surface. But the company announced a redesign in March to keep the network of pipes above ground.

The federal permit was the last regulatory hurdle for Kennecott Eagle, which already has state permits to build and operate the mine.

Opponents have been challenging state permits in court, contending that the mine will pollute groundwater and rivers near Lake Superior.  There is a concern that operations will expose the rocks which are high in sulfides to air and water and produce sulfuric acid and that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks.  The company said its plans will protect the environment.

In November, Ingham Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield affirmed the MDEQ’s 2007 issuance of environmental permits for building the Eagle mine.  Last week, anti-mining groups filed an application for leave to appeal the decision with the Michigan Court of Appeals, Case No.  307602.  At this point, the mine is not stayed from proceeding.

This is yet another battle of environmental concerns against economic development. Kennecott’s answer is due January 2nd and then we will see how this plays out.


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