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Exploratory drilling allowed in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Feb 7, 2017

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has given the green light to an exploratory copper drilling project in the Upper Peninsula.

The use permit allows Orvana Resources U.S. Corp., a subsidiary of Highland Copper, to drill in a one square mile area located on the western edge of  Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. 

According to John Pepin, a DNR spokesman, the company is taking steps to reduce the impact of the exploratory drilling on the land surface of the park. 

Pepin said the DNR did not provide public notice or a public comment period before issuing the permit for exploratory drilling on January 31. 

Kathleen Heideman, a board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, said she just learned today about the exploratory drilling permit, and her coalition had no opportunity for advance input.

Heideman said issuing the permit was a bad decision.

"These are threats to our most beautiful wild places in addition to our clean water resources," says Heideman.

"Any mining that would be potentially proposed in the future would not be conducted on the surface land at the state park," DNR's Pepin says.

Pepin said any future mining would be by underground methods from land Highland Copper owns outside the park.  

That is exactly what concerns Heideman.

"They'll be hoping to go underneath park land," says Heideman. "And this can jeopardize the Presque Isle River. It can jeopardize Lake Superior."

According to the DNR, any future mining of the minerals under the park would require Highland Copper to get approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to amend an existing permit. 

Heideman expressed concern over whether the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on that decision before it is made.