Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Yellow Dog Mine Receives Favorable Ruling

Yellow Dog Mine site
approximate location of the Yellow Dog Mine
based on news from and the Lansing City Pulse

A small, but high-grade vein of nickel is located under Yellow Dog Plain, west of Marquette in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The proposed mine site is located just a few miles from the route of the North Country Trail.

This proposal stirred up "a bitter conflict that has already reverberated up and down the state of Michigan. Scarred by accidents in other states and provisionally banned by Wisconsin, sulfide mining - a process with a hotly debated safety record - is poised to tunnel into Michigan, starting at the state's remotest, most mineral-rich outpost."

The London-based Kennecott company, which would create the mine, states that waste handling has come a long way from the days when nickel mining, with its deadly sulfides turned whole regions into moonscapes. Anyone who visited Sudbury, Ontario 20 or more years ago knows that this description is no exaggeration. Activists point out that a dismal record at containment should make the choice easy... keep the mine out. "In April 1998, partially in response to public concern over Kennecott's problem-plagued Flambeau Mine, Wisconsin passed a sulfide mining moratorium that requires permit applicants to show one example of a mining operation in the United States or Canada that has operated for 10 years - and one that has been closed for 10 years - without causing significant environmental pollution. It's a test no company, including Kennecott, has yet met."

At the heart of the debate is the potential damage to surrounding water resources, and particularly the effect on the coaster brook trout, a species being brought back from near extinction, and highly popular with anglers.

Now, a judge has ruled that the lease for the surface operations of the mine can be issued. Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield dismissed a lawsuit by opponents of the mine. She stated that the DNR had acted legally, and within its authority to grant the lease.

The National Wildlife Federation points out that the ruling was made on the legality of the jurisdiction rather than the merits of the lease. Opponents also have challenged the Department of Environmental Quality's issuance of permits to build and operate the mine and to discharge treated wastewater.

The lawyer for the NWF also stated that the ruling on the surface lease has no bearing on the case concerning the actual mine construction. Also fighting the lease are the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Huron Mountain Club, an exclusive retreat near the proposed mine site.

If approved, this will be the only U.S. mine where nickel is the primary mineral produced. The targeted deposit is expected to yield 300 million pounds of nickel, 250 million pounds of copper and trace amounts of other minerals. Because the metals are within sulfide ore bodies, critics fear the mine will generate sulfuric acid and contaminate rivers and groundwater in the area, which is within the Lake Superior watershed.

Kennecott-Eagle is still waiting for approval of an underground wastewater discharge permit from the EPA.

See "Judge OKs lease of state land for UP mine"

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