mining

Environment & Science
4:43 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court won't review UP mining dispute

Kennecott Eagle MIne in September, 2011
Credit Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a case trying to stop the development of a new copper and nickel mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The high court let stand a lower court's rejection of the Huron Mountain Club's arguments that the mine needs federal permits.

The Club owns a 19,000-acre wildlife and nature preserve that includes an 11-mile stretch of the Salmon Trout River.

The Eagle Mine is located a few miles upstream, and some mining will take place under the river.

Read more
The Environment Report
8:50 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea

Mary Mandeville (L) and Tim and Mary Jane Eder on Island Lake. The proposed mine site is west of the lake.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

A Ready-Mix concrete company, McCoig Materials, wants to open up a mine on a site north of Chelsea. The two parcels of land they want to mine are in between the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. This part of southeast Michigan has a lot of little lakes and unique natural areas.

McCoig Materials wants to operate the mine for 22 to 30 years and remove 11 million tons of sand and gravel.

People who live on the lakes nearby have been raising concerns about that.

Mary Mandeville spends summers in her cottage at Island Lake.

“Just to the west of us is where the proposed gravel mine would be putting in their operations. We’re very concerned about the impact on the environment, on the water table level. We’re concerned about air quality with all the dust from the dumping of the gravel into the trucks.”

Read more
Environment & Science
2:53 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Nickel-copper mine project in the UP being sold for $325 million

Rio Tinto's Eagle mine project in the UP in 2011. The company plans to sell to another mining company.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The owner of the controversial Eagle mine project in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Rio Tinto PLC, says it will sell the project to Canada's Lundin Mining Corp. for $325 million.

The deal will require approval from regulators.

Rio Tinto is still building the mine which they say is 55% complete. Construction started in 2010.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:14 am
Fri December 21, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Michigan population increases for the first time in seven years

Michigan gained population in 2012 for the first time in seven years, the Detroit News reports.

'This halts a decade of population losses, but population is still growing far slower than other states. U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday show the state grew at just 0.1 percent, adding 6,559 residents to 9,883,360.'

Snow dumps 14 inches in northern Michigan

"A snowstorm hitting the Midwest has dumped more than 10 inches of snow in northern Michigan and knocked out power to at least 60,000 state electricity customers. The weather service says snowfall totals could reach 13 inches in northern Michigan and 14 inches in northern lower Michigan before the storm exits Michigan Friday," the Associated Press reports.

Snyder signs personal property tax and mining legislation

"Governor Rick Snyder has signed a plan to phase out the state’s tax on business and industrial equipment. Manufacturers, in particular, say the tax discourages investment in Michigan. Snyder also approved an overhaul of how mining in Michigan is taxed. The new tax on mining production will replace a hodgepodge of taxes paid by mines," Rick Pluta reports.

The Environment Report
11:33 am
Thu December 6, 2012

DEQ reviewing final permit application for new U.P. copper mine

Lake of the Clouds, in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The proposed Copperwood Mine would be near the edge of the park.
michigan.gov

You can listen to today's Environment Report above or read an expanded version below.

The company Orvana Resources is one step closer to getting the approval it needs to build a new mine. The Copperwood Mine is proposed for a site north of the town of Wakefield in the western U.P. The state is reviewing the company’s final environmental permit.

The Department of Environmental Quality has already given the company mining, wastewater and air permits.

Read more
Environment & Science
3:57 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

Mining resurgence in Michigan's UP gains some national attention

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011. The mine is 25 miles northwest of Marquette, Michigan.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The boom and bust nature of the mining industry is nothing new to residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And while recent decades have seen the region's once-prosperous iron and copper mines falling further and further into "bust" territory, the last few years have seen a resurgence of interest from companies hoping to pull valuable ore from this remote part of the state.

Read more
Environment & Science
4:43 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Huron Mountain Club files federal lawsuit against Upper Peninsula mine

A private club in the Upper Peninsula has filed suit to stop the construction of a new mine in Marquette County.  It’s the first federal lawsuit to attempt to stop the project. 

The nickel and copper mine, owned by Kennecott Eagle Minerals, has received permits from the state.  But the Huron Mountain Club says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to sign off too.

The club owns nearly 20,000 acres of forest downstream from the mine on the Salmon Trout River.

The lawsuit says sulfuric acid produced by sulfide mining could pollute the river, and the club is "horror-struck" by the prospect of the watershed collapsing because part of the mine will be dug directly underneath it.

The lawsuit also says the federal government needs to consider the potential for damage to Eagle Rock, a site near the entrance to the mine that is sacred to American Indians.

The mine has been under construction since 2010.

Attorney for the Huron Mountain Club Rick Addison expects Kennecott will argue that it is too late to bring up this issue, but he says it was the company’s decision to build the mine without the necessary permits.

"The lateness argument has no resonance to me, it’s simply the last refuge of the environmental scoundrel," said Addison.

In a written statement, Kennecott says the mine has been extensively reviewed and already survived multiple legal challenges.

Environment & Science
11:55 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Tribe from Michigan's Upper Peninsula say mines violate rights

The Kennecott Eagle Mine in September of 2011.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

A Central Upper Peninsula Indian tribe is asking the United Nations to help curb sulfide mining in the Upper Great Lakes.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) recently sent the United Nations a document outlining how governments are locating and planning mines on Indian land without getting input from tribes.

Tribal officials say that infringes on their treaty rights. 

KBIC member and document co-author Jessica Koski said the tribe needs to have a seat at the table.

“This is our traditional territory.  This is where we hunt, we fish, we gather, and those are rights that are maintained in treaties,” said Koski.

Koski said the mines create the equivalent of battery acid, which drains into nearby watersheds.

“That is a huge problem. There is no example in the entire world of a sulfide mine that hasn’t polluted water resources. And this is an issue that would last for generations and centuries in the Great Lakes region,” said Koski.

Mining company Kennecott Minerals said its design contains safety components that will keep Lake Superior from being polluted.

Supporters of the mine say the area badly needs the jobs.

But Koski said the mine currently being built in Marquette County is slated to last only five years, and the U.P. needs economic opportunities that are long-term.

“And that could be tourism, recreation, agriculture—local sustainable economies where we can thrive into the future and not have this ‘boom and bust,’ which is a very well-known phenomenon with the mining industry, which is why the U.P. is so desperate for another gasp of another mining boom,” said Koski.

Koski also said a sacred site near the nickel and copper mine has been fenced off and degraded. Mining company Kennecott Minerals says the tribe still has access to Eagle Rock.

Koski said their U.N. document aims to educate the public about state and federal governments approving mines on Native land without consulting tribes.

It comes on the heels of the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The U.S. approved the multi-nation “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People” two years ago.  But a U.N. human rights official who visited the U.S. last week said more needs to be done to heal historic wounds, including a return of Native American lands to tribes.

Environment
1:32 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Michigan DEQ okays copper and silver mine in the UP

Mineral deposits Orvana hopes to target
Orvana Minerals Corp.

IRONWOOD, Mich. (AP) - Michigan environmental regulators say they've approved plans for a copper and silver mine in the far western Upper Peninsula.

The Department of Environmental Quality said Monday it had determined that Orvana Resources U.S. Corp.'s application for a mining permit meets state mining standards.

The department in March gave tentative approval. The DEQ says it's still reviewing other related permits for the project including air emissions and water discharges.

Orvana is targeting 798 million pounds of copper and 3.5 million ounces of silver in an underground deposit near Ironwood.

Environmentalists have raised concerns about the company's plans to withdraw large volumes of Lake Superior water and discharge treated wastewater into a creek that feeds the lake. Company officials say a buffer zone will provide adequate protection.

Offbeat
3:30 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Underground pot mine in Michigan? Not as far out as it sounds

A PPS marijuana crop in Canada
Prarie Plant Systems

A Canadian company specializing in plant-based pharmaceuticals wants to turn an old copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula into a large-scale medical marijuana farm.

Paul Egan from the Detroit Free Press reports that Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), along with their stateside subsidiary SubTerra, purchased the White Pine Mine in 2003 and began using it for other types of plant-based research. But the company hopes to start using the facility to produce pot and tap into Michigan's market of 131,000 medical marijuana users.

According to Egan, PPS already operates a marijuana growing facility in Canada and has a lucrative contract to supply medical pot to the Canadian government. But while Michigan voters have approved medical marijuana use, the project is still a long way from becoming a reality.

Egan writes:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder would all have to sign off, and in the case of the first two agencies, reverse direction on policy. Federal agencies consider marijuana illegal. DEA agents have not cracked down on small operations to supply licensed patients but almost certainly would view SubTerra as a major bust opportunity.

Legal hurdles aside, why use a mine to grow an underground pot crop?

Egan spoke to Brent Zettl, president and CEO of PPS:

Growing marijuana hundreds of feet underground - the same way the company started its Canadian operations in 2001 - provides security, constant temperature, controlled light and humidity, and protects the plants from bugs and diseases, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides, Zettl said. He said any medical marijuana sold in Michigan should be subject to the same regular and rigorous testing as is found in Canada.

However, according to Egan, PPS's regulated growing techniques have caused some Canadian users to complain about the quality and taste of the company's product.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Changing Gears
3:17 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Cliffs Natural Resources scraps plans for UP nugget plant

Cliff's Empire Mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Cliffs Natural Resources

If you’ve been following our coverage of iron mining in the region, this might interest you.  Cliffs Natural Resources, North America’s biggest iron ore supplier, is scrapping plans to build an iron nugget plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

A nugget is just a little clump of very pure iron.  Big deal?  Well, here’s why the new nugget technology matters … and why Cliffs spent years studying it in cooperation with Kobe Steel of Japan.

Remember, the iron-rich regions of Michigan and Minnesota:

  1. provided the iron ore
  2. that made the steel
  3. that helped the industrial Midwest become the industrial Midwest.
Read more
Economy
2:46 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Michigan's Empire Mine to get $60 million investment, extends life to 2015

The Empire Mine has been producing iron ore for more than 40 years. New investments will extend the life of the mine.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.

The company that runs an iron ore mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula plans to invest the $60 million to extend the life of the Empire Mine to 2015.

From a Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. press release:

This project is expected to allow Empire to continue producing at a rate of approximately 3 million tons of iron ore annually through its remaining mine life.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reports Friday that the investment will go toward the purchase of mining equipment.

The announcement from the Cleveland-based mining company was part of $1 billion in planned investments for all of its operations in 2012.

Environment
3:02 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

Kennecott mine opponents to appeal judge's go-ahead ruling

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Four groups are planning to appeal a recent court ruling that cleared the way for Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. to go ahead with mining operations in the U.P., the Associated Press reports:

The opposition coalition was filing paperwork Monday asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a decision last month by Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield. She ruled that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality acted properly by issuing Kennecott a permit for the project in northwestern Marquette County.

Last month, Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams explored some of the possible environmental effects the mine could create and spoke with  opponents and representatives of the mining company:

Michelle Halley is an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. It’s one of the groups that challenged (the initial) permit. She says they’re concerned about the type of mining that will happen in the Eagle Mine. It’s sometimes called sulfide mining.

“The rock at Eagle is extremely acid producing, very high in sulfides and so once that rock is exposed to air and water, there’s really no debate it will begin producing acid.”

That acid is sulfuric acid. According to the Environmental Protection Agency... that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks. The resulting fluid can be highly toxic to people and wildlife.

This is called acid mine drainage. On its website, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company says there is a risk that it can happen. But the company says it’s taking a number of steps to reduce that risk.

Matt Johnson is with Kennecott. He says the company will use a state of the art water treatment plant to purify the mine water using reverse osmosis.

“The entire mine site is designed to control water with water protection in mind. Which is why it’s the company’s commitment not to discharge any water back into the environment until it meets safe drinking quality water (sic) standards.”

And he says the state is also requiring them to do that.

Michigan Radio's Mark Brush followed up with an examination of what the state might gain financially from the project.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
2:32 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Marquette selling forestland for sand mining

Forestland in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
user {inercia} Flickr

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - The city of Marquette is selling 100 acres of forestland for use in sand mining.

The Mining Journal and television station WLUC report the City Commission voted Monday to approve the sale of part of the former Heartwood Forestland property to the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority for $180,000.

The city bought the 2,400-acre property in 2005. The authority plans to use the sand at a landfill that serves the city in an effort to cut costs.

Environment
1:41 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Mining in the UP, what does the state get in return?

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011. The mine is 25 miles northwest of Marquette, Michigan.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Drilling continues in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for potentially valuable ore deposits after a judge turned down a request from environmental groups to stop the mine's development.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals is drilling 25 miles northwest of Marquette primarily for nickel and copper, but palladium, gold, and silver could also turn up in the deposit.

Kennecott, a subsidiary of the London-based Rio Tinto Group, began drilling in September.

The ore deposit the company is after is about a mile away from the mine's opening (and about 1,000 to 1,500 feet underground). They're not expected to reach the deposit until sometime in 2013.

Around 50 percent of the deposit is under state-owned land, so it belongs to the collective "we" - the citizens of Michigan.

So what are we getting in return?

Read more
Environment
1:39 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Judge approves permit for Kennecott mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Resistance to the Kennecott mine project has been going on since the project was first proposed. n 500) near the area. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
Chris McCarus Environment Report

A judge has allowed a controversial mining project in the Upper Peninsula to go forward.

From the Associated Press:

A judge has upheld state regulators' decision to let Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield of Ingham County on Wednesday sided against the National Wildlife Federation and other opponents of the mine being constructed in northwestern Marquette County. She ruled the Department of Environmental Quality acted lawfully when it issued a permit allowing the company to build and operate the mine.

An attorney for the wildlife federation says the group hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Kennecott Eagle is targeting an underground ore deposit that is expected to yield up to 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper, plus smaller amounts of other metals.

The company began blasting the mine entrance in September.

The controversy around the mine comes from fears of water pollution in the UP.

Mining operations in the U.S. haven't had the best environmental track record. Some old mining operations have left behind some pretty nasty legacy pollution problems (look up the "Berkeley Pit" in Butte, Montana for an example).

Back in 2005, Chris McCarus looked at the controversy surrounding the then proposed nickel mine in the UP for The Environment Report. McCarus reported:

Michelle Halle is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation and a local resident. She's got one question.

"I’m always interested in the answer to the question about whether he believes that a mine can exist with 100% perfect track record."

It’s a rhetorical question. She’s confident that the company won’t be able to meet the newer, stricter standards for getting a permit to mine.

"No human error, no design flaws, no natural disasters that are going to cause an impact... I don’t think that any company can say yes to that honestly."

Halle's 2005 hunch was wrong. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. did get the permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and now a judge says development of the mine can go forward.

Environment
12:31 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan company seeks permits for new copper mine in UP

A nugget that is a mixture of copper, domeykite, and algodonite from the Mohawk Mine in Keweenaw County, Michigan. The AP reports that a Canadian company wants to open a new mine in the UP.
user Alchemist-hp wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A company is applying for state permits to construct a copper and silver mine in Michigan's far western Upper Peninsula.

Orvana Minerals Co., a subsidiary of a Canadian company, is proposing to build a mine near Lake Superior in Gogebic County. Orvana is targeting 798 million pounds of copper and 3.5 million
ounces of silver.

Company president Bill Williams says the mine would operate about 14 years and have about 250 people on the payroll.

Orvana will need 13 permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, including one to build and operate the mine. The others would deal with issues such as air quality, wastewater discharges and wetlands development.

DEQ officials say the mine will have to meet strict environmental standards to qualify for the permits.

Environment
6:13 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Foes make final try to block UP mine

Opponents of a planned nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula are making a final legal appeal to halt initial blasting at the site.

Four organizations have filed a motion in Ingham County Circuit Court for a stay of mining permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Quality. A judge with the court is considering an appeal of the DEQ's decision to grant the permits.

The Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve say the mine jeopardizes water and air quality in the forestland of western Marquette County. They say extracting minerals at the site could pollute ground and surface waters with sulfuric acid.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals says the project can be carried out while safeguarding the environment.

Changing Gears
8:00 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Ishpeming: Where iron ore built a city (Part 3 - with photos)

The Empire Pit began production in 1963.
Photo courtesy of Cliffs Natural Resources

Our Changing Gears project is on the road, bringing you stories of towns where one company still affects everybody’s lives. Today we head north, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That’s where North America’s biggest supplier of iron ore has been blasting the earth, and creating jobs, for more than 160 years. 

Our destination is the city of Ishpeming. It’s small.  Basically, you can’t throw a rock here without hitting a miner.

Take Steve Carlson. After high school, he worked 37 years for the mines.

Read more
Environment
2:32 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

State might allow mining in the Waterloo Recreation Area

Rachelle Mann at the top of a hill overlooking the current mining operations owned by Aggregate Industries. The potential new mining site – 72 acres of the Waterloo Recreation Area – is to her top right.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment wants to allow sand and gravel mining in the largest park in the lower peninsula – the Waterloo Recreation Area.

The DNRE is considering allowing mining on 72 acres of the 20,000 acre park.

It would be the first time mining would be allowed in the Waterloo Recreation Area.

Aggregate Industries, a Maryland-based company and a subsidiary of a Swiss-owned company, wants to do the mining.

The company has already been mining right on Waterloo's western boundary.

Read more