Thursday, April 14, 2011

Letter from Jessica Koski: Gov. Snyder, halt Eagle Mine, consider long-term impacts

To the editor:

I submitted a letter to Michigan Governer Rick Snyder on April 13 to urge him to use his authority to promptly issue an Executive Order calling for an immediate halt to activity at the Eagle Mine site, until the following points are considered. I wrote this letter in support of a recent citizen coalition "WAVE" letter to Snyder on March 24 (1).

1. Cumulative impacts of the Eagle Project. There should be a holistic impact study of the mine, mill and road, and six additional adjacent prospective projects that all add up (2). This includes impacts to fresh-water resources, wetlands habitat, social well-being, and culture (including federally entrusted treaty rights dependent upon uncontaminated fish, game, berries, and traditional medicines). A cumulative impact study should meaningfully involve the public and tribal nations throughout the process to help inform the community and decision-makers.

2. Short and long-term costs and benefits. The Eagle Project may offer much needed temporary employment, but what will be the long-term economic costs and impacts on jobs? What will be the impacts to the tourism, recreation, gaming and other industries that realistically cannot co-exist with large-scale extractive industry? Who will pay to clean up potential damage to natural resources beyond the company’s $17 million dollar assurance bond? (3) An independent study of the short- and long-term costs and benefits should be commissioned.

3. A state mining tax. Kennecott, a subsidiary of mining conglomerate Rio Tinto which is based in London, plans to profit $4.7 billion from the Eagle ore body. During our hard economic times, what does the state of Michigan expect to get in return with apparently no mining tax law? (4)

4. Mitigation of a religious Native American site Migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock). Michigan State Administrative Law Judge Richard Patterson recommended that "provisions be made to avoid direct impacts to Eagle Rock that may interfere with religious practices theron." (5) The National Congress of American Indians has also called for Federal and State action to guarantee the protection and preservation of Eagle Rock from the consequences of mining operations by Kennecott Eagle Minerals. (6)

It’s possible to envision alternative sustainable development opportunities for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Traditional economic theorists, such as Adam Smith, believed economic growth to be dependent upon external capital and extraction of more resources. However, true economic progress is self-sustaining and driven from within, as leading economic scholar Paul Romer terms "endogenous growth theory" where people have an "incentive to go out and discover things like ideas, not to do things like dig up another cubic yard of iron ore." (7)

It is not too late to realize and overcome the socially divisive impacts already affecting the community by a multinational mining corporation. It doesn’t have to be a choice between jobs or a healthy environment, we have a right to demand both. We need leadership from all levels of government -- peoples lives, culture and future are at stake, not just jobs.


Jessica L. Koski
Citizen, Baraga, Michigan
Member, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
Master of Environmental Management Candidate ’11
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies


1. Click here for WAVE letter to Gov. Snyder.
2. See "Rio Tinto to enter nickel market with US$300 million Eagle Mine commitment" (Rio Tinto media release: Dec. 17, 2007).
3. See See Gabriel Caplett, "Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak Reiterates Concerns With Rio Tinto Mine" (Headwaters News: July 19, 2010).
4. See Charlotte Loonsfoot, "Counting the dollars" (Letter to Marquette Mining Journal: March 21, 2011).
5. Click here to read the State of Michigan State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules document on the Petitions of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Huron Mountain Club, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Environmental Preserve, Inc., on permits issued to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company.(See especially pp. 170-172 and Judge Patterson's statement on p. 177.)
6. Click here to read The National Congress of American Indians Resolution #ABQ-10-078: "Calling for Federal and State Action to Guarantee the Protection and Preservation of Eagle Rock from the Consequences of Mining Operations by Kennecott Eagle Minerals."
7. Paul Romer in "An Interview with Paul Romer on Economic Growth," by Russell Roberts (Library of Economics and Liberty: Nov. 5, 2007).

Editor's Note:
Jessica Koski, author of this letter, spoke in defense of Eagle Rock and against the Rio Tinto/ Kennecott Eagle Mine at the 2010 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Rio Tinto in London, England. Rio Tinto's 2011 AGM is being held today, April 14, 2011, in London.

Photo: Jessica Koski of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, author of this letter, speaks at the 2009 Protect the Earth event at Eagle Rock. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

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