Sunday, February 27, 2011

Letter: Kennecott's Flambeau Mine still pollutes water

To the Editor:

I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit recently filed in federal court against Kennecott Minerals for pollution at the Flambeau Mine site in Wisconsin. As such, I have been interested in keeping tabs on what the company has been telling the people of Michigan about its track record in Wisconsin.

In particular, the company’s Deb Muchmore was quoted in a regional newspaper (Mining Journal, Marquette, MI, July 16, 2009) as saying that Kennecott’s Eagle Project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula can be expected to be built, operated and closed in "a similar outstanding fashion" as the Flambeau Mine.

I surely hope Ms. Muchmore is wrong.

Since 1998, Kennecott’s own data from its Flambeau Mine has shown toxic levels of copper in a detention pond used to collect runoff from the reclaimed mine site. The same pond was used during the mining years to collect highly toxic acid mine drainage and runoff from the open pit mine.

The polluted water in the detention pond discharges into a creek that flows across the mining company’s property to the Flambeau River. I might add that the copper levels in the discharge are not just a little high. They consistently have ranged between 2 and 30 times higher than the copper standard set to protect fish and other forms of aquatic life.

Again, this is Kennecott’s own data!

I finally got tired of the failure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to ticket Kennecott for the violations and properly regulate the pollution at the Flambeau Mine site. That’s why I teamed up with the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and the Center for Biological Diversity to sue Kennecott in federal court.

All I can say is that if Ms. Muchmore is correct in saying that the Eagle Project will be operated in a similar fashion to what the company did in Wisconsin, the people of Michigan are in big trouble.

Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman)*
Duluth, MN 55805

Photo: Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman) has been fighting to protect the waters of the Great Lakes region from the mining industry's grasp since 1997. Here she is pictured at a rally that took place at the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest Rio Algom's plans to mine at Crandon, Wisconsin. (Photo by the late Roscoe Churchill, April 2000, © and courtesy Laura Gauger. Reprinted with permission.)

*Editor's Note: Laura Gauger is co-author (along with Roscoe Churchill) of the book The Buzzards Have Landed about the Flambeau Mine that operated in Wisconsin in the 1990s. She is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit recently filed against Kennecott in federal court over water pollution at the Flambeau Mine site. See our Jan. 25, 2011, article, "Updated: Lawsuit filed against Kennecott subsidiary for water pollution at Flambeau Mine site."

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