Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letter: Judge Manderfield's edict on sacred site was incorrect

By Jack Parker*

1. Judge Patterson originally ruled that the portal at Eagle Rock should be moved from the proposed location at the base of the western face of Eagle Rock, far enough to allow activities of worship to take place. That was obviously NOT a casual comment but a decision.

Rio Tinto - Kennecott Eagle Minerals project at Eagle Rock on the Yellow Dog Plains: portal construction, east view. Click on photo for larger version. (Sept. 15, 2011, photo © Jeremiah Eagle Eye and courtesy Stand for the Land. Reprinted with permission.)

2. KEMC (Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.) attorneys made another of their arrogant and presumptuous "determinations" and declared that the site was not a place of worship because there were no man-made buildings or structures on it. The DEQ went along with the KEMC determination and allowed the portal to stay where it was.

Both KEMC and DEQ had misinterpreted the definitions, deliberately. They had presented false statements into the permitting process. Check your dictionaries. Then check Part 632, page 14 (4).**

"Sacred" may refer to a religious context (with the word "religious" itself being open for discussion), but it can also refer to objects or subjects which are revered.

That definition can be applied to the Rock unquestionably. The requirement that there be a man-made structure or building on it may apply in some places; but a lot of people have "gone to the mountain" to communicate with a god, or gods, thus making it a place of worship, without question. Worship may well be defined as a practice which expresses to a person or an object or a deity adoration, reverence and love -- essentially great worth, i.e., worthship.

Surely I am conscious of that as I watch the sun go down over the Yellow Dog Plains. The great big world keeps turning. I witness it. Yet another day is done. I am so small …

Here I must interject a bit of geology: A few thousand years ago, when man first came to the Plains, Eagle Rock was an island rising some 50 ft above a proglacial lake (bordered in part by glacial ice). At that time there were no trees, so the view from the Rock, itself higher than Mount Bohemia, would include most of the Keweenaw Peninsula and great distances to the north, south and east, too. The travel agent might label it "Magnificent!" The ancients would be awe-struck -- a mixed emotion of respect, reverence, dread and wonder. Undoubtedly it was a very special place.

I submit that the Rock has always been a place of "worship."

Kennecott displays a condition of being unaware, uneducated, uninformed.

No doubt there were made-made shelters there then, initially made of snow and ice, later made of saplings covered with skins and bark and thatch, and, more recently -- tents. Nobody specified concrete blocks and tin roofs.

I once asked a Native American lady to tell me about her religion but she demurred, very gently, saying that they do not like to talk about it with the white folks, because we make fun of such things. So we changed the subject. Would that KEMC could respect their feelings.

3. A cyclone fence has been erected around the outcrop, close to the base of the west face, where the portal is planned to be. It defines a "Do not disturb" area. We appreciate that.

Suppose that we accept the fenceline as a token of acceptance by Kennecott that the Rock is a special place. Leaning on definitions, as Kennecott is wont to do, the word "Rock" refers not only to the outcrop but also to that volume defined by planes extending vertically downward from the limits of the outcrop to the center of the earth -- just as mineral rights are assumed to do. That would be halfway to Australia -- which means that the declined tunnel must not pass beneath the Rock at any depth.

4. "Do not disturb." Turning again to our trusty dictionary (mine is American Heritage, 4th Edition).

With pleasure I accept the #1 definition: "To disturb is to destroy or break up the tranquility." Again there can be no doubt that any mining-related activity will destroy the tranquility -- be it drilling, blasting, loading, trucking or any traffic. Activities making noises, dusts and odors would likewise be allowed only at a distance of several hundred feet from the Rock.

Judge Patterson’s ruling was correct -- the portal must be moved far from the Rock.

My opinion is that the Rock is not the best place from which to access and ventilate the ore body. Kennecott made a costly mistake and must pay for it.

Judge Manderfield was misled by their arrogant and overconfident propaganda and must now rescind her edict and issue the injunction specified in Part 632 for cases of doubt.

Thank you,

Jack Parker, Mining Engineer, Toivola, MI 49965

* Mining expert Jack Parker, semi-retired mining engineer/geologist, is well respected for his practical experience in more than 500 mines around the world. Parker -- who has degrees in mining engineering, geological engineering and geology from Michigan Technological University -- specializes in practical rock mechanics.

** Click here for Part 632, Michigan Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining Law.

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