Friday, May 02, 2008

Kennecott's Eagle Project sulfide mine: Is this just the beginning?

A fall 2006 view of the Salmon Trout River, which flows through an area proposed for Kennecott Minerals' Eagle Project sulfide mine. The river contains a rare population of Coaster Brook Trout. (File photo © 2007 and courtesy lexup at Save the Wild UP.)

Editor's Note: A contested case hearing challenging mining and groundwater permits for a Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company nickel and copper mine in northern Marquette County began Monday, Apr. 28, in Lansing and is expected to continue for several weeks. The National Wildlife Federation, Huron Mountain Club, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Keweenaw Bay Indian Community are challenging the issuance of these permits by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.* This article is the second in a two-part series on plans by Kennecott and other mining companies for future mining in the Upper Peninsula.

By Emily Svenson

The U.P.’s past as a mining district may be making a resurgence as mining companies such as Kennecott, BHP Billiton, and others scope out mineral resources.

Cynthia Pryor, Executive Director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve says, "Kennecott and their parent company Rio Tinto put out a recent press release indicating that they have at least six new sites they may work into mining ventures."

Cynthia Pryor, executive director for the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, addresses the issue of sulfide mining on the Yellow Dog Plains at a meeting of Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Senior Citizens Center in Baraga. (Keweenaw Now file photo © 2006 Michele Bourdieu)

Speaking of the Eagle Project, Pryor says, "This is dangerous. It’s dealing with sulfide ores and uranium, and it’s snowballing. That’s why we’re so focused on this case. Companies are waiting for this case to get cleared up so they can see how the courts handle the situation."

If the State of Michigan gives Kennecott the go ahead with the mine on the Yellow Dog, companies may start swarming the U.P. to tap its vast mineral resources. The map below, courtesy of Save the Wild UP and Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, shows mineral rights and mining plans for the U.P.

This map shows mineral rights and mining plans by several companies in areas beyond Kennecott's present Eagle Project. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Save the Wild UP and Northwoods Wilderness Recovery. Reprinted with permission.)

Michelle Halley, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, says, "The U.P.'s most valuable natural resource is the Great Lakes. The history of sulfide mining demonstrates that it would put the Lakes and their tributaries at risk. Our planning for the U.P.'s future should extend beyond the 10-year horizon and take into account the world's need for fresh water and protect the blessing of it here in the U.P."


Vast Majority of U.S. minerals exported

Pryor says, "Most of the metals extracted today go to feed China’s extensive growth. Rio Tinto and other major mining companies sell their minerals to China."

According to the Associated Press, China recently tried to buy Rio Tinto for $200 billion. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, also tried to buy Rio, the world’s third largest, for $147.4 billion. Rio rejected both offers. China, Rio Tinto’s biggest customer, is currently boycotting both Rio and BHP Billiton.**

"China's extraordinary appetite for resources has almost single-handedly powered the Australian economy through a downturn in the rest of the developed world," writes John Garnaut of The Sydney Morning Herald, "but the Chinese boycott of BHP and Rio shipments shows the extent of Chinese concerns about the rising market power of the world's largest and third largest miners, which would be greatly magnified if BHP succeeds in acquiring Rio."***

Australia considers China a powerful economic ally.

Paul Campbell, a resident of Calumet and Lac LaBelle,
has been involved in the Kennecott Eagle Project as a local citizen. He has been to public DEQ forums and informational meetings and is strongly supportive of any groups that oppose sulfide mining in the U.P. However, he is not affiliated with any group.

"Because of China and India’s emerging economies, precious mineral prices have skyrocketed," Campbell notes. "Kennecott and other mining companies here in the U.P. have responded to China and are taking advantage of the potential to make high dollars for their investors without any regard to the long-term consequences of their actions to the land and people."

Campbell mentions China’s massive air pollution problem as they rapidly industrialize using coal-fired furnaces.

"The documented [air] pollution we get from China here in the U.P. is caused by their cheap, simplistic industrial complex, using coal-fired furnaces. So in reality, the very problematic sulfide ore that will affect our land, as it is being mined, exposed, processed and then shipped to China will also come back to haunt us. Unfortunately, this reminds me of Catch 22," Campbell says. "It is believed by some that China will surpass us as a world power by 2035."

Granholm Town Hall Meeting deemed orchestrated and disappointing

Pryor also commented on a recent Town Hall Meeting with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm broadcast from Grand Rapids.

"The meeting was orchestrated to give answers to pre-arranged questions that would enable the Governor the ability to respond to all questions with an upbeat answer." Pryor said.

According to Pryor, Granholm "took the easy way out" by not addressing issues of immediate concern to many citizens.

"She knew I wanted to talk about her vision of the U.P. with the insurgence of all the proposed mines and escalating minerals explorations," Pryor added, "but she chose to ignore the question and the concern."

According to a report by Ted Roelofs of The Grand Rapids Press, Governor Granholm believes she will be able to improve Michigan’s economy by developing jobs in medicine and biotechnology, job retraining and providing incentives to encourage alternative and renewable energy development.

"She pointed to Sweden as a possible model for Michigan, noting it has created 400,000 jobs in renewable and alternative energy. Sweden, like Michigan, has about 10 million people, enjoys a long coastline, and has abundant forests," Roelofs writes.****

Although Granholm says she wants to provide incentives for renewable energy, she does not seem to resist the development of mines in the U.P., as long as companies follow the mining rules recently put into place in Michigan.

We live in a beautiful place

Marquette was listed in the April 2008 issue of Outdoor Life magazine as #7 in the 200 best towns to live in the U.S. for hunters and anglers. Marquette was noted for its natural beauty and outdoor adventure opportunities.*****

So often, people from other places, such as Chicago or Green Bay, say they wish they could live in the U.P. because of its natural beauty and recreational opportunities, such as skiing, camping, and snowmobiling. If mining makes a major resurgence, will the U.P. still be a vacation destination? Will it still have the natural beauty that draws people here and makes them envious of those fortunate enough to live here year round? Residents of the U.P. are so lucky to be surrounded by clean air and water; this heritage needs to be preserved for future generations.

Campbell asks, "What pathway do we want? Will we get leaders who lead and who will show respect for the land and people to bring us together? If we don’t, what will the future hold for our Children, our Precious Minerals?"

Notes:

* See updates on the contested case hearing on Save the Wild UP.

** See the Feb. 2008 Associated Press article, "Rio Tinto Rejects $147.4. Billion Take-Over Bid."


*** See "China locks out BHP and Rio ore." The Sydney Morning Herald. March
18, 2008.

**** See "Granholm’s Town Hall Meeting Frustrates Attendees." The Grand Rapids Press. March 20, 2008.

***** See "Paradise Found." Outdoor Life Magazine. April 2008.

Visit the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve Web site for
a slide show of photos of the area threatened by the Eagle Project.

Emily Svenson, the author of this article, is a free lance writer and Keweenaw Now visiting reporter. The first article in this series, "Will Kennecott mine the Yellow Dog Plains?" appeared on Keweenaw Now on Earth Day, Apr. 22, 2008.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tree sale pickup to be May 2, 3 at Lakes Event Center, Lake Linden

Preparing trees and plants for the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District's annual tree sale May 2-3 at the Lakes Event Center, Lake Linden, are hard working volunteers, from left, Mark Klemp, Mark Weber and Paula Doran. (Photo © 2008 and courtesy Sue Haralson)

HOUGHTON -- Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District (HKCD) volunteers are hard at work preparing trees, shrubs and plants for pick-up and sale this weekend. Customers can pick up their tree sale orders from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 3, at the Lakes Event Center on M-26 between Hubbell and Lake Linden.

For sale are a lot of surplus trees, shrubs, fruit trees and berry bushes. They all need a home.*

Sorry, there is no cell phone service at the Lakes Event Center, so you'll just have to stop and see the quality items available for sale.

Visit the HKCD Web site for more information about the District.

* See also our Apr. 17 article on the items for sale.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MTU Drop-N-Shop offers recycling, bargain purchases Apr. 29-30

By Bronwynn Kelly, Heather Wright, and Shalini Suryanarayana

HOUGHTON -- As people begin their yearly spring cleaning and as Michigan Tech students begin to move out of the residence halls, many will discover they have accumulated items they no longer want or they simply cannot fit into their car. To encourage the reuse of these gently used items, the Students for Environmental Sustainability (SfES) and Michigan Tech Residence Life have partnered together to organize this year’s Drop-N-Shop events that will take place on Tuesday, Apr. 29, and Wednesday, Apr. 30, at four locations on Michigan Tech’s campus:

1. DHH Loading Dock, 2 p. m. - 3 p. m.
2. McNair Loading Dock, 3 p.m. - 4 p. m.
3. Wads Loading Dock, 4 p.m. - 5 p. m.
4. MUB Circle, Noon - 5 p. m. (featuring the On-the-Spot Drop-N-Shop events). This location is for off-campus students, faculty, staff, and community members.

On Tuesday, Apr. 29, Tim Beach, right, MTU student in computer science and a volunteer for MTU's Circle K service organization, shows some bargain items to Chee Huei Lee, MTU graduate student in physics, who is from Malaysia. The Drop-N-Shop continues through Apr. 30. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Each year millions of tons of garbage are landfilled; and this number continues to increase as our society moves towards more disposable, one-use products. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2006, residents, businesses and institutions produced more than 251 million tons of municipal solid waste. That means each person in the US produced approximately 4.6 pounds of waste per day! That is up from 3.3 pounds per person per day in the 1970s.

MTU's Drop-N-Shop includes practical bargain items like this dry erase board. (Photos courtesy Heather Wright)

Fortunately, there are many ways that individuals can reduce their waste generation: Reducing, Reusing and Recycling. However, of the 3 Rs, reducing and reusing offer the greatest benefits, both financially and environmentally. Reducing the amount of "stuff" we consume every day has a direct impact on the planet and can greatly reduce our ecological footprint. The second R, reusing, also reduces waste, while supporting a productive economy and allowing individuals to sustain their same quality of life. Specifically, reuse creates less air and water pollution than making a new item or recycling, results in less hazardous waste and can generate new business and employment opportunities.*

"Gently used" items like these windbreakers, which can be recycled and reused, will be available for bargain prices on the MTU campus during the Drop-N-Shop Apr. 29-30. (Photo courtesy Heather Wright)

Yet recycling is a far better option than sending items to the landfill. In 2006, recycling (including composting) diverted 82 million tons of material away from the landfill, which was up from 15 million tons in 1980.**

Drop-N-Shop was created as a way to help facilitate the reuse of items typically discarded as a result of the annual departure of students each spring. The MUB location will feature the On-the-Spot Drop-N-Shop event. This On-the-Spot event is new this year and will allow individuals to drop off their gently used items and also to shop among the donated items. Items can be purchased for a small donation, and all proceeds will go to support Earth Week events.

For a list of acceptable and unacceptable items, please visit our website, http://www.esc.mtu.edu/SFES/Default.htm. All items remaining at the end of each day will be donated to St. Vincent de Paul.

Notes:
*
Annie B. Bond (1999): "Why Reuse Beats Recycling." See http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-reuse-beats-recycling.html.

** US EPA (2008): "Municipal Solid Waste." See http://epa.gov/garbage/facts.htm.

Editor's Note:
Co-authors of this article Bronwynn Kelly and Heather Wright are members of MTU's Students for Environmental Sustainability (SfES), and Shalini Suryanarayana is chair of MTU's Environmental Sustainability Committee.

Great Lakes Showcase exhibits regional art Apr. 28-May 4 at MTU

HOUGHTON -- The Great Lakes Showcase of Fine Art and Crafts, a juried exhibition featuring the work of 77 regional artists, opens at 7 p.m. Monday, Apr. 28, in Michigan Tech's McArdle Theatre (Walker Arts and Humanities Center), with a reception to which the community is invited.

The showcase brings back one of the most popular annual arts events in the Keweenaw area after an absence of six years. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Copper Country Gallery Exhibition showcased the work of regional and national artists in a gallery-style show each May, in the week before graduation. It was temporarily discontinued in 2002 when its longtime organizers turned to other activities. Mary Ann Beckwith, MTU professor of art, says the new Great Lakes Showcase will be an annual event sponsored by the visual and performing arts department and other area art supporters.

"We hope everyone will take time to visit the exhibit," Beckwith says, "and to help us update our community and artist mailing lists. We already look forward to doing this again next year."

Free and open to the public, the showcase can be visited daily from Apr. 29 to May 4. After the Monday evening opening, hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Apr. 29, through Friday, May 2, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4. Visitor parking will be available in Lot 8 near Walker. Guided tours of the exhibit can be arranged for K-12 students and other groups by calling the Visual and Performing Arts office, 487-2067.

A number of special awards, including Best of Show, will be given to work in two dimensions and in three dimensions. This year's judge for selections and awards is Katie Crotteau, executive director of the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau, Wis. In addition, the Community Choice Award of $150 will be given to the artist whose work receives the most votes from exhibit visitors.