Sunday, November 21, 2010

Updated: Cynthia Pryor: Update on sulfide mining debate

By Cynthia Pryor, Sulfide Mining Campaign Director, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve

BIG BAY, Mich. -- A quick update for those interested in Michigan's metallic sulfide mining debate and the changes to our political landscape based on the recent elections:

Governor elect Republican Rick Snyder has announced key positions to his new staff:

Bill Rustem, CEO of Public Sector Consultants will be Snyder's Strategy Chief. Bill Rustem is also Kennecott 's consultant and was Nestle's Ice Mountain consultant during that citizen battle for their water rights.*

Dennis Muchmore, husband to Kennecott's public relations consultant and spokesperson Deborah Muchmore,** will be Snyder's Chief of Staff.*** Dennis Muchmore is the "Of Council" of a lobbiest firm in Lansing and a recent Executive Director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.****

Rebecca Humphries has resigned as the Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) and will be leaving that post in January to take the position of Director of Ducks Unlimited. There has been no announcement of who Snyder will appoint to this key regulatory position.

Judge Donald Shelton from Washtenaw County District Court has denied the petitioners NWF (National Wildlife Federation), KBIC (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community), HMC (Huron Mountain Club) and YDWP (Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve) Contested Case appeal for hearing the case in Washtenaw County based on "judicial economy." While recognizing that the venue request of Ann Arbor was appropriate, Judge Shelton also recognized that Judge Manderfield of Ingham County had heard the bulk of testimony; and, therefore, Judge Shelton moved the appeal back to Ingham County and Judge Manderfield. Judge Manderfield has ruled once in our favor and three times for the State of Michigan/Kennecott on this matter.

Update 2/ Correction: The oral argument by the Petitioners mentioned above concerning their appeal of the Department of Natural Resources (former DNR, now part of DNRE) decision to grant a lease on state lands to Kennecott for the Eagle Mine will be heard at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010, in Lansing before a panel of three judges on the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Petitioners appealed the DNR decision once before in front of Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield, who ruled in favor of the DNR. This appeal of her decision is not part of the Contested Case mentioned above. (See below)

The Marquette County Road Commission has approved the development of a new county road "somewhere in a corridor two miles on either side" of Kennecott's failed Woodland Road attempt. Kennecott, as the developer, asked Marquette County to build the road as a county road for the good of the people of the County -- based on economic growth, tax base expansion and tourist/recreation expansion opportunities. Kennecott would be paying road commission staff in their work to develop the new road, paying for the road work itself including design, engineering and permitting costs. The County Road Commission has not yet presented their plan for where the road will go, and many citizens are actively attending meetings and giving public comment in opposition to this new county road that would run from Kennecott's Humboldt Mill to the Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains.

While Rio Tinto has lost the bid for a joint venture with BHP that would infuse capital to meet Rio Tinto's debt, recent news indicated that Rio Tinto had a 2B debt sale (debt sale is an increasingly popular strategy for organizations wanting to improve cashflow and reduce balance sheet liabilities).*****

China, the biggest consumer of copper, today ordered banks to set aside larger reserves for the fifth time this year, draining cash from the financial system to limit inflation and asset-bubble risks in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The reserve ratio will increase 50 basis points starting Nov. 29, the central bank said. Rio Tinto dropped 1 percent to 4,141 pence and BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 0.9 percent to 2,343.5 pence. Rio's profits are still heavily tied to China's growth and important to the outcome of this venture, and we continue to watch this closely.

Kennecott continues to develop the Eagle Mine with work commencing on the Waste Water Treatment Plant, Waste Rock facilities, the Treated Water Infiltration System, running electric to the mine and industrial expansion/support projects in the area (gravel pits/rock crushing/fuel/road development/housing facilities). The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve continues to monitor these activities by frequent on-the-ground oversight/documentation, frequent in-the-air oversight/documentation, water quality studies and expansion of a monitoring program involving several partners in the region. YDWP has documented this work for several years and continues to keep regulatory bodies apprised.

Coalition meetings, strategy meetings and other forums are still being held and planned. We have not given up and there is still a huge silent majority that wants the outcome of this mine on the Yellow Dog Plains to be different. We will continue to work any angle presented to us as best as we are able.

Thanks to all for your continued attention and support. A special THANK YOU! to the team downstate that continues to fund and put up billboards: SULFIDE MINING KILLS RIVERS. Your billboards are effective, eyecatching and send a succinct message that resides in people's minds whether they realize it or not. Good work!

My best to you all,

Cynthia Pryor

*Click here to read about Bill Rustem.

** Click here for info about Deborah Muchmore.

*** Read the Detroit Free Press article on Dennis Muchmore's appointment.

**** Click here to read about Dennis Muchmore.

***** Click here to read the Bloomberg article.

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted with permission from a recent email Cynthia Pryor sent to concerned citizens.

Update: Pryor is quoted in the Nov. 22, 2010, Michigan Messenger article, "Enviros wary of corporate connections in Snyder cabinet," by Eartha Jane Melzer. The article gives further details on Rustem, the Muchmores, etc.

Update 2 from the Editor: We were in error previously in stating this Dec. 7 appeal was part of the Contested Case. Thanks to NWF Attorney Michelle Halley for clearing this up.

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