Thursday, January 27, 2011

Headwaters: Rio Tinto responds to questions on ore hauling plan

By Gabriel Caplett
Posted Jan. 26, 2011

MARQUETTE -- Following reporting by Headwaters that Rio Tinto’s original ore hauling transportation route for its Eagle Mine called for the company to access existing rail networks and avoid trucking transportation through city streets, the company now has a response.

The original plan [accessed by clicking here] called for the company to truck ore down county roads AAA, 510, and roughly 20 miles down 550, taking it to the LS and I railroad, north of Marquette. This original route would have allowed the company to avoid trucking through the Upper Peninsula’s busiest and most populated travel corridor: through city streets in Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming, and a number of townships.

According to the company’s Manager of External Affairs, Matt Johnson, that original transportation plan has been clarified and amended, allowing Rio Tinto to truck its ore through the three cities, to the same active rail line in Humboldt, north of US-41/28. ... Read the rest of this article on Headwaters News.

Editor's Note: To a question from Keweenaw Now on whether Rio Tinto's Matt Johnson said why the original rail route, which avoided trucking through the cities mentioned above, was not feasible, Headwaters writer Gabriel Caplett replied Johnson would not say why.

Celebrate mid-winter with Heikinpäivä dances, parade, Tori, family fun

The bears that "roll over" in mid-winter lead the 2010 Heikinpäivä Parade on Quincy Street in Hancock. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

HANCOCK -- Heikinpäivä events continue this week with events for the whole family this weekend. Here are some highlights:

Thursday, Jan. 27: MTU MUB Commons, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. FREE dance lessons: Finnish Tango and Humppa, taught by Ralph Tuttila from St. Paul, Minn. Sponsored by the MTU Social Dance Club.

Friday, Jan. 28: "Karhun Tanssi" at Michigan Tech MUB ballroom. Dance lessons 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. ($3 for the public) by Ralph Tuttila: Schottische and more, Finnish Tango. The dance (only $5 --note change from previously listed price) will start at 8 p.m. and will go to 11 p.m. Music by the PasiCats. Sponsored by the MTU Social Dance Club.

Note: Pasi Cats will also play from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Tori (Finnish-American Heritage Center) on Saturday, Jan. 29 (FREE).

Saturday, Jan. 29:

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. -- Tori Market, Finnish American Heritage Center and First United Methodist Church. Featuring ethnic crafts, foods and Finnish items.

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Family Fun Day — Vipukelkka - Whipsled, Hancock Middle School lawn.

During the 2010 Heikinpäivä Family Fun Day kids enjoy the whipsled (Vipukelkka) while, in the background, parents and kids learn about the visiting reindeer. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

11 a.m. Parade, downtown Hancock. Line up at BRIDGE School at 10:30 a.m. Prizes.

Immediately following parade -- Boot-throwing and Wife-carrying contests, Hancock Middle School lawn.

1 p.m. -- Snow volleyball and pond hockey, Copper Island Beach Club, Hancock. Call (906) 482-2422. Tournaments continue on Sunday if necessary.

2 p.m. - 4 p.m. -- Closing Reception for "Art from the Kalevala" group exhibit, Community Arts Center, Hancock. Call (906) 482-2333.

Death and Rebirth, by Paul Osmak, is part of the "Art from the Kalevala" group exhibit. (Photo courtesy Community Arts Center)

3 p.m. -- Polar Bear Dive, Hancock waterfront, near Ramada Inn.

6 p.m. -- Seisovapöytä (Finnish buffet), Finlandia Hall, Finlandia University. Silent auction during the banquet.

8 p.m. -- Heikinpäivä Tanssi (Dance) at Finlandia Hall, Finlandia University, following the banquet. Music by Wilho Kilpela and Friends. ($5, or dance free with banquet ticket.)

Click here for the complete Heikinpäivä 2011 Schedule.

Editor's Note: For more photos of last year's Heikinpäivä events, see our January 2010 slide show.

Happy Birthday, Khana Khazana!

HOUGHTON --Khana Khazana (food treasure), an international lunch cooked by Michigan Tech international students and served at the Memorial Union Food Court, is celebrating its first anniversary this Friday, Jan. 28. In honor of the occasion, students from six different countries will each cook a dish from their homeland.

Thai, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Iranian and Italian food will be on the menu. Each dish can be purchased for $2, and a free fountain soda comes with a $6 purchase.

Parawee Pumwongpitak, a graduate student in materials science and engineering, will cook sweet and spicy Thai chicken with cashew nuts. Komal Tayal, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, will prepare pakora kadhi, a popular Indian dish made with graham flour. Chung Zhang, an undergraduate from China, will make sweet and sour spareribs. Sara Fernandez, an undergraduate in exercise science, will make natillas, a custard dessert from Spain. Hasti Asayesh Ardakani, an undergraduate in mechanical engineering, will cook ash resteh, a thick Iranian noodle soup. Daniele Alami, a graduate student in geological and mining engineering and sciences, will prepare panne pomodoro fresco, a popular Italian noodle dish.

Khana Khazana is a collaborative project of international students and Michigan Tech Dining Services, open to the campus and the community. The food is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays.

Some Michigan Tech ski trails closed for races Jan. 28-30

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech and the Friends of Michigan Tech Skiing will host the USSA Michigan Tech SuperTour, presented by Portage Health, this Friday through Sunday, Jan. 28-30. This means that some of the Tech trails, along with the main trailhead, will be closed during the races.

The SuperTour is a series of races held around the country that attract some of the best skiers in the U.S., include a collegiate competition and serve as a Junior Olympics qualifier. High school, middle school and youth races will also take place. All in all, more than 300 skiers are expected.

The main trailhead and the trails used for the races will close Thursday night, Jan. 27, and remain closed through the end of the races on Sunday afternoon.

All of the loops that intersect with the Core Loop will be closed: Pine, Oak, Birch, Portage, Hairpin, Hemlock, Skidder, Balsam, Maple, Linden, Peepsock and Cemetery.

The following trails will be open: the Nara trailhead, the Nara, the lower trails -- those east of Skidder -- the softball field access, the Isle Royale and Superior Loops, and the Pilgrim.

See details at supertour.mtu.edu.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Statement on Afghanistan Visit by Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senators Jack Reed and Jon Tester

From Sen. Carl Levin's Office:
Jan. 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. --On Sunday, we returned from traveling to Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. The purpose of the Afghanistan visit was to see how our counterinsurgency strategy there is working and whether we are on track for the July 2011 date for transitioning increased security responsibility to the Government of Afghanistan and starting reductions in U.S. forces at that time.

There are signs of significant progress from six months ago, when two of us visited Afghanistan, although great challenges remain. ... Read the rest of this article on Sen. Carl Levin's updated Web site.

Click here for a video clip and text of Sen. Levin's response to President Obama's State of the Union address.

Visit the Huffington Post for the full text and video of President Obama's State of the Union address, as well as commentary.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana to offer passion, romance Jan. 28-29 at Rozsa

HOUGHTON -- Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana will take audiences on a journey of passion, lust, joy, and romance, with two performances at Michigan Technological University’s Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29. Audiences both nights will forget the January cold as they embrace the heat and passion of flamenco, captivated by the powerful performances of one of the nation’s premier flamenco and Spanish dance companies.

Audiences will experience the artistry of the Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana touring company, presented by choreographers, dancers, singers, musicians, and percussionists steeped in the traditions and trained by the masters of Spanish dance and flamenco music. Join the Rozsa in welcoming Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana for two steamy nights of what The New York Times refers to as "An infectiously joyful celebration of music and dance."

Sponsored by the James and Margaret Black Endowment.

Ticket prices for the general public are $20 for Adults, $18 for Seniors, and $14 for Students. To purchase tickets contact Michigan Tech Ticketing Services at the Rozsa Box Office at 487-3200, The Central Ticket Office (SDC) at 487-2073 or go online at tickets.mtu.edu. No refunds, exchanges, or late seating, please.

Updated: Lawsuit filed against Kennecott subsidiary for water pollution at Flambeau Mine site

"Just grass over a grave" is what the late Roscoe Churchill -- pictured here at the "reclaimed" Flambeau Mine site near Ladysmith, Wis. -- called the reclamation by the Flambeau Mining Co., a Rio Tinto / Kennecott subsidiary, that now faces a Clean Water Act citizen lawsuit because of pollution of the Flambeau River and one of its tributaries. (Photo © Linda Runstrom, Winona, Minn. Reprinted with permission.)

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

MADISON, Wis. -- Two citizen groups -- the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and the Center for Biological Diversity -- and Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman), who is a member of both groups, recently filed a Clean Water Act citizen suit against Flambeau Mining Company, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto / Kennecott, over its partially reclaimed Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wis.

According to the suit, the mining company is violating federal law by discharging pollutants -- including potentially toxic metals like copper, iron and zinc -- into the Flambeau River and a tributary known as "Stream C" that flows across the company’s property.

"For too long, Flambeau Mining Company has ignored its obligation to protect the water quality of Stream C and the Flambeau River," said Laura Gauger, an individual plaintiff in the lawsuit. "This is yet another example of the company’s history of broken promises to the people of Rusk County and the Native American community."

Gauger says the pollution at the Flambeau site affects both ground and surface waters.

"For example, copper levels in the discharge from a detention pond that collects runoff from the reclaimed site have ranged from 11 to 91 parts per billion since 1998 (this is Kennecott's own data), whereas Wisconsin's chronic toxicity water quality standard (meant to protect fish and other aquatic species) is three parts per billion. The polluted water in the detention pond discharges into a creek that flows across the mining company's property to the Flambeau River," Gauger notes. "The groundwater is dirty as well. A well within the back-filled pit has registered manganese levels as high as 42,000 parts per billion (again, this is Kennecott's own data), whereas the drinking water standard for manganese is 50 parts per billion. This is of no small concern. Excessive exposure to manganese has been associated with causing nerve damage similar to that seen in Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, Kennecott has not commented on any of this. Instead we are shown pictures of wildflowers waving in the wind."

The Flambeau is a popular river for fishing and canoeing and provides habitat for a wide variety of aquatic and wildlife species, including bald eagles and osprey. The Flambeau Mine -- an open-pit metallic sulfide mine for copper, gold and silver -- operated near the river from 1993 to 1997. Since the close of mining operations, Flambeau Mining Company has struggled to address persistent groundwater- and surface-water-quality problems, most notably at a 32-acre industrial park that remains operational.

The mining company channels stormwater runoff from this industrial park into a settling basin that discharges into a tributary of the Flambeau River. Monitoring data from the mining company and the state show that copper levels in the discharge have greatly exceeded Wisconsin’s toxicity standards. The stormwater detention basin once held highly toxic acid mine drainage (AMD) and runoff from the open-pit mine.

"The Clean Water Act requires that Flambeau Mining Company’s pollution discharges be regulated by a permit that sets clear limits on the amount of pollutants and protects the water quality of Stream C and the Flambeau River," said Jamie Saul, an attorney for the citizen groups. "Without such a permit, Flambeau Mining Company is in violation of the Act."

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 18, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, in Madison, under the Clean Water Act’s "citizen suit" provision. Congress authorized citizens to directly enforce Clean Water Act requirements against alleged polluters in federal court.

Gauger (formerly Laura Furtman) has visited the Marquette area and Eagle Rock on several occasions. Last spring she camped out on Eagle Rock with Native and non-Native Americans opposed to the Eagle Mine, and she spoke at the 2009 Protect the Earth event at Northern Michigan University, telling the story of the Flambeau Mine and the water pollution left from it.*

Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman) with campers at Eagle Rock in May 2010. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Gauger also spoke about the late Roscoe Churchill, her mentor, with whom she co-authored the book The Buzzards Have Landed -- The Real Story of the Flambeau Mine, a comprehensive case study of how Rio Tinto / Kennecott paved the way for its Flambeau Mine by undercutting local democracy and exerting undue influence on state regulations governing environmental protection and taxation.

Churchill -- a dairy farmer, schoolteacher and community leader in Rusk County, Wis., where Kennecott’s Flambeau Mine was located -- served eight terms on his local county board during the controversial mining years and was a member of the committee that evaluated the Flambeau Mine proposal. He was also appointed by Wisconsin’s governor to serve on a statewide task force on mining in the late 1980s and witnessed the crafting of Wisconsin’s mining laws.

The Buzzards Have Landed is full of factual documentation -- from town and county board resolutions, legal briefs, mining company reports, financial spreadsheets, and newspaper articles to correspondence between mining company attorneys, state legislators, local officials, regulators within the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and representatives of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission -- documents that are available on a CD-ROM that accompanies the book. In addition, the book tells the story of how Roscoe and his wife, Evelyn, whose farm was located near the Flambeau Mine, fought for the land and water at heated town board meetings, county board meetings and even the State Capitol for a private meeting with former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

Gauger is formerly a resident of Spooner, Wis., and currently resides in Duluth, Minn. She is a member of both citizen groups involved in the lawsuit.

The Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) is a statewide, nonprofit membership organization concerned with the environmental impacts of metallic mining on the state’s precious water supplies, on the tourism and dairy industries, and upon the many Native American communities that are located near potential mine sites. WRPC educates the public about the consequences of allowing international mining corporations to develop a new mining district in the Lake Superior region under the present legal and regulatory framework.

Al Gedicks, WRPC executive secretary, has also visited Marquette and Eagle Rock and participated in Protect the Earth events related to more than one mining project. Gedicks is professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse and is the author of The New Resource Wars: Native and Environmental Struggles Against Multinational Corporations (1993) and Resource Rebels: Native Challenges to Mining and Oil Corporations (2001). He has also produced documentary films on mining struggles in Wisconsin.

In his talk during Protect the Earth on July 31, 2010, at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, Mich., Gedicks told the story of Wisconsin's Crandon Mine, which was stopped by Native and non-Native people getting together to protect their common watershed until mining companies lost credibility and finally withdrew from the project. Gedicks was a consultant for the Mole Lake tribe and was involved in the nearly 30-year struggle of resistance against the Crandon mine.**

Gedicks reminded the Baraga audience that mining companies are aware of the need to have a "social license" to operate a mine -- in conjunction with their efforts to obtain permits from government agencies.

"If those government agencies (in supporting a mining project) fail to consult the people that are going to be directly affected by (mining) operations, that mining operation is in jeopardy," Gedicks said.

At some point citizen opposition can shut down the operation. That's why mining operations spend so much money to convince the public that the mining operation will benefit them, Gedicks explained.

"The bottom line is that even though it looks like they have the power, they have the money, they have the lawyers, they have the technical consultants," Gedicks said, "we have the people and we have the truth and we're going to win."

That same weekend, on Aug. 1, 2010, Gedicks addressed the crowd of people who walked to Eagle Rock and stood outside the security fence Kennecott had put up around the sacred Ojibwa site where the company plans to put the entrance to their Eagle mine.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Al Gedicks, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council -- a citizen group involved in a lawsuit against Kennecott's Flambeau Mining Co. for water pollution at the Flambeau mine site near Ladysmith, Wis. -- addresses the crowd of Protect the Earth participants at Kennecott's Eagle Mine security fence, which now surrounds the sacred Ojibwa site, not far from Big Bay, Mich. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

"Mining companies depend on the psychology of inevitability," Gedicks said. "They depend upon convincing people that this project is already done, there's no point in opposing it and therefore the opposition should pack up their bags and go home. And if the opposition does not believe that the project is inevitable -- they don't buy into the psychology of inevitability -- that raises the cost of doing business. And that's what we have to do."

Gedicks added, "As long as this project remains an illigitimate project there are going to be future protests and that is going to raise the cost of bringing this project on line and eventually it's going to result in the project being put on permanent hold."

The Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. Web site mentions the Flambeau Mine under the heading "Modern, Responsible Mining."

In a 2010 statement by Rio Tinto, Kennecott claims that at the Flambeau Mine, "where reclamation was completed more than 11 years ago, the company promised to protect the Flambeau River and that promise was kept. During its years of operation 1,000 water quality samples were drawn. The company’s state of the art water treatment plant, located at the mine site processed 600 million gallons of water for safe return to the environment. Monitoring to date shows the Flambeau River is and remains protected. The Flambeau Mine successfully operated without a permit violation."***

Kennecott also promotes the Flambeau Mine as an example of reclamation on their site flambeaumine.com.****

The Clean Water Act citizen lawsuit directly opposes such claims by Rio Tinto / Kennecott.

"The Clean Water Act requires that Flambeau Mining Company’s pollution discharges be regulated by a permit that sets clear limits on the amount of pollutants and protects the water quality of Stream C and the Flambeau River," said Jamie Saul, an attorney for the citizen groups. "Without such a permit, Flambeau Mining Company is in violation of the Act."

The Center for Biological Diversity, the second citizen group participating as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a national, non-profit membership organization with over 40,000 members including hundreds of members in Wisconsin. The Center has an office in Duluth, Minnesota. The Center works through science, law and creative media to secure a future for all species, great or small, hovering on the brink of extinction.

"There are a number of large copper-mine proposals in this region, and the continuing pollution at this much smaller and short-term mine does not bode well for the larger strip-mine projects," said Marc Fink, attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Ironically, last week, on Jan. 19, 2011, one day after this lawsuit against Flambeau Mining Co. (Kennecott Minerals) was filed, Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast a meeting to inform the public about the Penokee Mine -- a projected open-pit iron mine planned for the Ashland, Wis., area. During this program, a panel of speakers spoke about the benefits of the mine. Only one, a Native American speaker, spoke about protecting the land, water and Native American wild rice beds in the area. During the question-answer period, the Flambeau Mine was mentioned twice as a "success."

David Zion preceded his question on economic benefits with the statement that the Flambeau Mine was the "best example of environmentally safe mining on this planet."

A panel member answering a question on the state regulatory process also mentioned the Flambeau Mine in positive terms.

"It's a rigorous process. There's been one company that's been able to go from beginning to end through this process and that's Flambeau," he said. "That was an unusually rich deposit for its type."

The plaintiffs in this Clean Water Act citizen lawsuit would not agree that the Flambeau Mine has been reclaimed.

In a recent email to Keweenaw Now, plaintiff Laura Gauger notes, "The myth of the Flambeau Mine is that it is an example of 'environmentally responsible' mining. But, as Roscoe Churchill so adeptly observed, the landscaped surface at Flambeau with its prairie grass and wildflowers is 'Just Grass Over a Grave.' The real issue at the Flambeau Mine site, and with all mining operations, is water quality."

Notes:

* Read about Laura (Furtman) Gauger's presentation on pollution at the Flambeau Mine at the 2009 Protect the Earth event at Northern Michigan University in our Aug. 5, 2009, article, "Protect the Earth 2009: Part 1."

** Click here to read Al Gedicks' article "The Crandon Mine Battle (1975-2003)" in Headwaters Magazine (Spring 2010), p. 21 (p. 11 in pdf version).

*** Taken from a statement by Rio Tinto, "Modern, Responsible Mining: A response to claims made about 'sulfide mining'" posted in June 2010 on the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. Web site.

**** Click here to see photos of "Flambeau Reclaimed."

Click here to listen to the Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast on the proposed Penokee Mine near Ashland.

Click here to learn more about the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.

Click here to read about the Center for Biological Diversity.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Updated: Headwaters: Elected officials ask Commission to consider rail option for Rio Tinto hauling plan

By Gabriel Caplett

Posted in Headwaters News Jan. 24, 2011

MARQUETTE -- Marquette County road commissioners were told tonight that Rio Tinto’s currently-approved and original ore hauling plan does not involve heavy truck traffic through Marquette, but instead delivery to the LS and I rail line, northwest of Marquette, that avoids heavy truck traffic through the streets of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming.

"I don’t understand why the road and some of the transportation issues that are being raised now were not raised when Kennecott first put in their mine transportation application initially, and which was approved," said County Commissioner Mike Quayle.

"If I understand the original application -- the permit granted -- the product is to be trucked to just north of Marquette utilizing county roads Triple A, 510 and 550. It was then to be transferred to railcar and hauled to Sudbury, Canada, for processing. If there has been an amendment to the permit to haul the ore through the city of Marquette, Marquette Township, onto US-41/M-28, west to the Humboldt plant I’m not aware of it."

Quayle said the Triple A, 510, 550 route through Marquette that Rio Tinto is now proposing "is the worst stretch of the hauling route now being discussed" and places the public at risk, suggesting the company should stick with original plans to use rail transportation in some form.

"I feel government officials and residents who stepped forward with recent safety concerns of the current route proposed by Kennecott should encourage Kennecott and regulators to use rail for their transportation needs from the mine site, in Big Bay, to Humboldt for processing," said Quayle. "Rail transportation, in my opinion, should be the first consideration to avoid safety issues now coming to the foreground and will help save the current road systems which we all know this type of hauling is very hard on."

Quayle added, "Utilizing rail, versus trucking, seems to be the best solution to all the road problems facing not only Kennecott, but also the taxpayers, citizens, and travelers of Marquette County."

County Commissioner Bill Nordeen agreed. "What happened to that [original] plan?" Nordeen questioned. "We can strongly suggest and, as you said numerous times here, that [Rio Tinto] needs to get political . . . buy-in . . . to be able to do these things."

County Road Engineer Jim Iwanicki acknowledged that the rail option has "not been discussed at all" in his meetings with Rio Tinto but that the county has limited options in regulating Rio Tinto’s hauling route.

County Commissioner Deb Pellow said, "For the safety of the traveling public it is the concern of the majority of the county board that we continue the 595 option because it comes straight south and gets those trucks off of those other roads that aren’t up to snuff to handle that kind of traffic."

Big Bay resident Gene Champagne used a football analogy to explain his position on the road.

"My opinion is the County Road Commission shouldn’t be in the business of running interference for Kennecott," said Champagne. "No matter how you dress this up, 595 is a haul road for Kennecott."

“We wouldn’t be here if they would have wrote an actual, solid, bona fide permit with the requirements of the law," said Champagne. "The transportation section of the permit’s about a half-a-page long -- you could write it almost on a matchbook cover."

Iwanicki told road commissioners that he had received a letter from Rio Tinto saying "they were no longer interested in County Road 595," yet Rio Tinto officials called him the following day and discussed possible plans that involved the Road Commission moving forward on County Road 595, regardless of the company’s involvement, and that the company would need to get local political support if it chose to pursue its current plan of driving through the city of Marquette.

"I told them that there was some political buy-in that they needed to get with Marquette Township, the city of Marquette, and the County Board, especially, as well as the other townships before the Road Commission started working on County Road AAA, 510, or the 550 route and did point out to them that any agreements dealing with these roads will be written in the Road Commission’s favor," said Iwanicki. "The standard would be 55 miles an hour, 40-foot width, and all contracts will let through the Road Commission."

Iwanicki said Rio Tinto’s Rick Thomas noted he doesn’t want the county to have control over ore trucking on public roads and disagreed with the Road Commission’s position that road improvements would have to follow county guidelines.

Headwaters’ contributor Catherine Parker reminded the Road Commission that it did have authority under Michigan’s new "Part 632" mining law to regulate ore hauling traffic. Parker read a passage in the law that included the following:

"A local unit of government may enact, maintain, and enforce ordinances, regulations, or resolutions affecting mining operations if the ordinances, regulations, or resolutions do not duplicate, contradict, or conflict with this part. In addition, a local unit of government may enact, maintain, and enforce ordinances, regulations, or resolutions regulating the hours at which mining operations may take place and routes used by vehicles in connection with mining operations. However, such ordinances, regulations, or resolutions shall be reasonable in accommodating customary nonferrous metallic mineral mining operations."

A meeting between the Road Commission and elected officials has been planned for Thursday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m. Iwanicki expects that a draft letter to be sent to Rick Thomas will result from the meeting.

Editor's Notes: Visit Headwaters News for related articles and photos.

Update: In our Jan. 24, 2011, posting, the article inadvertently identified Jim Iwanicki as a road commissioner. The correction has been made: His title is County Road Engineer.

Author Katie Alvord to speak on nature writing Jan. 25

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Now guest author Katie Alvord will speak on "Writing Outside: Crafting Prose In and About Nature" at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Chapel of St. Matthew at Finlandia University. This is the first in a Writers on Location series of presentations by local writers on Tuesday afternoons.

Alvord is the author of Divorce Your Car! Ending the Love Affair with the Automobile and publishes the related blog Divorce Your Car! She has written many articles on environmental issues, including an award-winning series on climate change and Lake Superior for Keweenaw Now in 2007 and an article on wind farms in 2010.

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Lesley Du Temple, author of children's books, will present "Tigers in Your Living room: Natural History Writing for Children," from 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Finlandia's Chapel of St. Matthew.

The Author Series is free and open to the public.

Headwaters News: Mining road plan must have public priorities, not Rio Tinto profits, in mind

By Gabriel Caplett

MARQUETTE -- Claiming they will drive through the city of Marquette to haul nickel ore, Rio Tinto should stick with original rail plan instead of endangering the public and Upper Peninsula’s outdoors heritage.

Last week Rio Tinto announced plans to drop its pursuit of the 22-mile 595/Woodland Road to haul ore from its Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill, in Marquette County.

The company’s project director, Andrew Ware, claimed Rio Tinto will now "move forward with the originally designated route" and drive through the city streets of Marquette.

Problem is, Rio Tinto doesn’t really have an approved route to do so.

The approved, and originally designated route, allows Rio Tinto to haul ore on public roads to a rail line just northwest of the city of Marquette. From there the company can use an existing rail system to haul ore to Sudbury, Ontario, or amend its plan and build a short spur to transport it to the nearby Humboldt Mill.

Or it can access the existing Cliffs-owned LS and I rail line from points far west of Marquette, or extend the line -- as it has been in the past to haul ore and timber -- to the mine site on the Yellow Dog Plains. A project like this would benefit both Rio Tinto and Cliffs’ logging plans and create a ton of jobs, reducing diesel emissions and construction material use far more than building and driving on a 22-mile road through rough country ever would.... Click here to read the rest of this article on
Headwaters News.

Letter to Mining Journal: "Kennecott's bluff"

MARQUETTE -- Teresa Bertossi of Marquette wrote a letter concerning Kennecott's plans for a haul road for the ore from their Eagle Mine near Big Bay. The letter appeared today, Jan. 24, in the Marquette Mining Journal.

Bertossi's letter is timely since the Marquette County Road Commission will meet at 6 p.m. tonight, Monday, Jan. 24, in Ishpeming. On the agenda are the following items concerning the proposed County Road 595 (intended to be a haul road for Rio Tinto / Kennecott):

CR 595 Update
1. MDOT letter -- Federal Eligibility of CR 595
2. Jim and Darryll Phone Conversation with Rick Thomas Jan. 13, 2011
3. Rio Tinto Letter Dated Jan. 17, 2011
4. Rio Tinto Press Release Jan. 17, 2011
5. Jim Meeting with Kennecott Jan. 18, 2011
6. Jim Phone Conversation with Rick Thomas Jan. 19, 2011
7. Local Officials Meeting Set for Thursday, Jan. 27, at 2 p.m.
8. Draft Letter to Rick Thomas
Public comments are allowed both at the beginning and at the end of the meeting.

Here is an excerpt and link to Bertossi's letter:

To the Journal editor:

I'd like to call Kennecott's bluff.

It's likely Kennecott isn't even fully considering the "new" haul route through Marquette. It's more likely a red herring -- a manipulation to try to force public sentiment back the other way -- to get the original road, 595, approved while skirting around the law and not sharing all of the alternatives with the public.

Why bluff? Well, for the same reasons you might in a game of poker, to provoke a fold by an opponent who holds a better hand. Kennecott is trying to use the "new" route to get locals to argue their case for them. Third party advocacy is preferable to direct corporate advocacy, especially when it has the potential to help eliminate federal involvement.... Click here to read the rest of the letter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Opinion: On the road again -- concerning the Kennecott haul road

By Jack Parker

BALTIC -- Those who discuss and argue about the best and worst haul-road proposals are working for Kennecott. They have been duped -- by "intelligence" at Rio Tinto/Kennecott -- into making the topic appear to be acceptable and legitimate. It is neither acceptable nor legitimate. Don’t feel bad -- they do it all the time, world-wide. Big budget!

My main contention is that Kennecott does not have a permit for any road, anywhere; and they know it, so they avoid that topic and divert the attention of opponents and innocent bystanders from it by fomenting discussions and arguments which are, in reality, pointless. It seems that most opponents and proponents have fallen for the trickery. Right?

So far they, Rio Tinto/Kennecott, have been successful, as they were at Eagle Rock.

Please let me explain. I will stick to the facts, will not use long and tedious quotations, but will give simple references which will lead you to confirm the relevant facts if you wish.

THE PERMITTING PROCEDURES -- REQUIRED AND REALITY. These were set up in relatively simple language as Part 632 -- Michigan's Nonferrous Metallic Mining Regulations -- readily available to all on the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) Web site. Definitions are included. It is worth remembering that some documents have been removed from that site and some have been "modified." If necessary we can provide originals.*

Now note that Joe Maki, DNRE (formerly DEQ -- Department of Environmental Quality) Mining Team manager, admitted that he and his Mining Team did not adhere to this law when evaluating the contents of the application (pages 6305-6311 of his court transcript.) That means that his conclusions and recommendations and permits were all without sound foundation and are thus meaningless. All of them.

For reasons unknown, that fact has been overlooked by the DEQ, the court, the judge and the opponents -- but it is incontrovertible.

All permits are invalid, should have been and still should be revoked.

Setting that aside for the moment, let us look again at Part 632. It begins by stating that no mining-related activities can begin until all permits are approved.

The definitions provided tell us that mining-related activities include ground-clearing, building and /or extension of access roads and utilities -- such as power lines. Since Kennecott must have known that their permits were not valid they have openly defied the Law, despite protests from the opposition. The DEQ colluded with them by looking the other way and by circumventing public hearings and misreporting comments offered. We were duped.

Presumably Kennecott figured that protests would fade away and they could do as they pleased, which has proved to be the case to date. They have incited diversions such as Eagle Rock and power lines while they proceeded with construction and spending unhindered. We were duped.

Anyway, the Point is this: That all of the current arguments are pointless -- because Kennecott has no permits to do anything at the Eagle deposit, except exploration.

In their comments on the original "Woodland Road" application the USACE (Army Corps of Engineers) warned us that work done and money spent on a project before permitting would carry no weight in the permitting process. You could say that Kennecott goofed.

Part 632 already prescribes penalties for deceptive presentations in the permitting process. You will find them on the DNRE site. Look for Part 324.63223 False
Representations. Fast forward to 5. Endangerment.**

Governor Snyder -- please note, before you too get duped. Just enforce the existing law, Part 632 in particular.

Thanks,

Jack Parker, Mining Engineer
Baltic 49963

Notes:

* Click here for Part 632.

**In the pdf file linked above, scroll down to pp. 13-14.

Editor's Note: Emphasis in this article is the author's. Opinion articles do not always express the views of Keweenaw Now.