Environment Picture

Kennecott still lacks state, federal permits to proceed with mine plan

The proposed Kennecott nickel mine that would threaten the headwaters of several Lake Superior tributaries with acid mine drainage contamination is not a done deal by any means, according to Upper Peninsula groups working to safeguard the region’s water resources. In addition to legal challenges brought by several organizations, the mine lacks a number of required permits, as this edited version of an October press release from Save the Wild UP points out.

Kennecott Minerals Co. currently lacks major state and federal permits required in order to open and operate its proposed Eagle Project metallic sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains in Marquette County.

Recently, the company purchased the site of the old Humboldt Mill in Humboldt Township that was used to crush ore from Callahan Mining Company’s Ropes Gold Mine decades ago.

Although Kennecott has yet to submit a permit for its processing complex, Eagle Project Manager Jon Cherry claimed, at an October 6 meeting, that the mill will be operational by 2010.

Local Save the Wild UP Director Kristi Mills said, “For Kennecott to announce that it is moving forward with its Eagle Project and Humboldt mill plan is grossly premature when you consider the big picture. They have neither the legal permits nor public consent to boast their achievements.”

According to Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Deputy Director Jim Sygo, at Humboldt, “There are Waters of the State issues, and the site is a facility under [Part 632, the new metallic mining law], which will generate significant issues to permit this site.”

In a July 2008 letter, Sygo acknowledged, “The reopening of the Humboldt processing facility would require a separate permit.”

Sygo also acknowledged, “[Kennecott] would have to apply for an amendment of the Mining Permit for construction of a new haul road and would likely need permits under Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, and Part 303, Wetlands Protection…as well.”

Regarding the company’s plans to power the mine, Sygo said, “[Kennecott] would have to apply for an amendment to its Part 632 Mining Permit before beginning activities to extend electrical service from CR 550 to the Eagle Project mine site.”

A mining permit for the Humboldt facility will require State review of Kennecott’s application and public hearings before approval would be considered. Construction of their own haul road and extension of electric utilities will require Kennecott to amend its Mining Permit, effectively restarting the permitting process with public hearings and another DEQ decision.

To further complicate its plans, Kennecott lacks a required underground injection permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has also requested that the EPA conduct studies relating to the endangered Kirtland’s warbler and the threatened Canada lynx before issuing a decision on Kennecott’s federal permit. The FWS has suggested that potential mining effects on the native Coaster Brook Trout could also complicate Kennecott’s application process. The FWS will issue a 12-month finding on the petition in December.

For more information, e-mail kristi@savethewildup.org.
-Save the Wild UP
RELATED TOPICS: land use, water protection
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