IRON RIVER, Mich. -- [Editor's Note: This is a letter to the editor, sent to Keweenaw Now today. The letter also appeared recently in the Marquette Mining Journal. It is reprinted here with the author's permission. Keweenaw Now welcomes readers' comments on the letter. See below to post a comment. If you wish to send us a reply to the letter, or a letter on a related topic, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider publishing it.]
My father and I enjoyed hunting public lands. Because my dad was a miner, swing shifts made it difficult to make time on the weekends for recreation, but I happily skipped school in order to go hunting.
We did not have access to private land or a camp, depending on public land as our only means to hunt, fish, camp, hike and canoe.
I continue to live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan because of the many acres of accessible public land. Today, access to our public land is threatened. Foreign mining companies are laying claim to public lands.
Being raised in an iron ore mining community -- Iron River, Michigan -- and a third generation miner myself, I was aware of the problems of past mining, including ongoing pollution from the closed Buck and Dober mines. I assumed those problems would have been addressed and corrected using modern mining methods, but they have not.
According to a 2006 study, while 100 percent of mines reviewed predicted zero water pollution before opening, 76 percent ended up polluting the water anyway. Exposure to this pollution can cause many health problems in humans and wildlife.
From 1998 to 2007 the federal government spent at least $2.6 billion to remediate just some of the many abandoned and polluted mine sites.
In Michigan the Yellow Dog Plains, Huron Mountains, McCormick Tract Wilderness Area, Ottawa National Forest and the Shakey Lakes Savanna in the Escanaba River State Forest are currently being considered for mining operations. The Upper Peninsula is not a unique situation. Public lands throughout the Great Lakes Basin are being explored, such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area and the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. In Canada, the Lake Superior Provincial Park and the Pukaswa National Park in Ontario. Native American and First Nation lands are also being considered for mining in Canada and the U.S.
Development of these areas would limit our land use and have a negative effect on our water and wildlife.
We have a daunting task before us. Our pleas to government agencies responsible for protecting our public lands for all people, the animals, the environment and future generations, are falling on deaf ears. Mining would limit our land use, poison much of the land and water and leave future generations questioning our decisions.
We need to act now with one voice. Defend Our Public Land.
Richard Sloat, Iron River, Mich.