Saturday, October 15, 2011

Opinion: Elected officials ignore potential health threats, cleanup costs from mining

By Margaret Comfort*

Recently, I received a tear-off flyer from a Michigan legislator, requesting that I "check off the issues that interest you": a. Social Security, b. Tax Reform, c. Second Amendment, d. Medicare, e. Economy and Jobs, f. Border Security.

My number one choice, "Environment and Clean Water," was not on his list.

If we do not include "Environment and Clean Water" in the top six, we will make little progress on "Economy and Jobs," "Social Security," and "Medicare." I question the wisdom of our current elected public servants' hell-bent obsession to board the run-away train for another "mining boom." It'll be a boom alright -- a boom right in the 'ol noggin. Some will get jobs for a few years, maybe even 10 years. But then what? Of course, these so-called public servants will be long out of office by then (hopefully sooner).

But why should they worry? Let the working man deal with it -- just like when greedy corporate executives sold off our manufacturing base and auto industry to other nations, where items could be produced cheaper (i.e., more money in the pockets of the big-whigs) and we were left standing in the unemployment line.

Ready for another round? Ready to sign up to be the third-world "colony" yet again?

Mining is inherently unsustainable. Minerals are NOT renewable. Any temporary gain (in terms of jobs) will serve only as a temporary stop-gap measure. Although some fortunate folks will jump for joy with that good-paying job, what are we going to do when the pot is empty? Furthermore, the potential for damage to the environment and our "new gold" (water -- soon to be more precious than gold) far outweighs the temporary economic benefits such industry will bring.

This is NOT grandpa's type of mining. This is sulfide hard-rock acid-mine-drainage (AMD) polluting mining. This pollution is difficult, if not impossible, to clean up. Do you want to drink it? What, no health insurance after you lost that temporary job? Well -- now that you are sick -- prove it. Prove that you were poisoned.

Good luck.

When concern is voiced to a legislator or public official, the Chatty-Cathy answer is: "Michigan has the toughest mining laws in the nation" and "well, our regulatory agencies are on top of it." No, we don't and, no, they aren't.

In fact, Michigan's non-ferrous mining law, known as part 632, has plenty of loop-holes. Companies are only required to conduct an in-house EIA (environmental impact assessment). No independent study is required. If a company is able to by-pass (skirt around the Spirit of the Law) the Clean Water Act, then its waste water only has to meet "safe drinking-water standards," which may not support aquatic resources such as juvenile fish. Many existing waters in our beloved U.P. far exceed this "standard." Would not it behoove us to promote legislation to safeguard the purity with which we are blessed?

Furthermore, the DEQ itself has admitted that it doesn't have the staff, financial resources, or technical expertise to do the job. The EPA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act are currently on the chopping block. Various entities are trying to decimate them.

It would also behoove us to inquire whether any of these multinational corporations (be it Kennecott, Orvana, HudBay, Aquila, others) intends to extract, if discovered, URANIUM. Let us recall the horrors suffered by thousands of Navajo -- genetic mutations, birth defects. The legacy goes on and on.

The western world's so-called magic bullet (our savior, technology) still hasn't cleaned up the water eminating from the Midnight Mine on the Spokane Tribe Reservation, the AMD from the Buck and Dober iron mines in Iron County, nor the dioxin-laced Tittabawassee River downstream from Midland. Our magnificent state already has plenty of Superfund sites and brownfields to go around. We do not need to create any more; nor do we need to try and mask or greenwash the ones we already have.

Disturbingly, there is increasing intelligence data indicating these multinationals may intend to do just that: find a way to extract economically viable quantities of uranium compound from these ore bodies. Has triuranium octoxide been discovered in your neighborhood? near your camp? near your favourite fishing hole? near our beloved Lake Superior or Lake Michigan?

Get smart. Get informed! What are the chemical compositions of a representative sample of the company's drilled cores? Does the DEQ know? Shouldn't the DEQ know? They are supposed to be the regulatory agency! Such information should NOT be deemed a "company secret."

Furthermore, if corporations stand to profit BILLIONS from these "projects," would not it behoove the state of Michigan to demand a fair share of the pie? Shouldn't we DEMAND adequate financial assurance from the parent corporations (not just from their subsidiaries)? They must have a very strong incentive to do their utmost to not leave us and future generations of Michiganders with a big mess and a big bill. We are so hopelessly desperate right now that we foolishly settle for a few measley ten-twenty million rather than hundreds of millions in assurance.

A messy clean-up could end up costing millions per day.

Who is going to insure US -- the citizens of Michigan? What is the legal liability to us, the taxpayer? Have you, citizen, considered this? Remember: hindsight is 20/20. Turn on your brain, open your mouth, ask questions and demand answers. Do NOT settle for mediocrity. The corporation is hoping you will. Fool them! Wake up and smell the coffee!

While well-greased, politically savvy, and slick multinational corporations wine and dine our public servants, become their good buddies, and are deemed "stakeholders" to our regulatory agencies and departments, we, the EVERLASTING TRUE STAKEHOLDERS of the land and water, can't even get an answer to our questions -- nor can we get our elected officials to think, probe, and examine!

Our elected officials owe it to the People of the great State of Michigan to examine the facts, point out and question deficiencies, demand appropriate a priori financial assurances, and promote the development of a sustainable future for all citizens.

Wake up Michiganders! Demand it!

*Margaret Comfort, author of this article, is a resident of Marquette County.

Friday, October 14, 2011

CCGAP, Global City to co-host photojournalist Oct. 17, 18

HANCOCK -- Next week the Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project (CCGAP) will host Graham Hunt, a photojournalist living and working in Central America. He recently spent a year accompanying witnesses in genocide cases against some of Guatemala's most notorious wartime military leaders, revealing the way in which the Guatemalan genocide served to clear the indigenous people from their resource-rich homelands.

Hunt will be giving two public presentations: At 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, he will speak at the First United Methodist Church in Hancock (following a potluck at 6 p.m.).

Global City will co-host Hunt's presentation at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Fisher Hall, Room 329, on the Michigan Tech campus. Pizza and pop will be served. Bring your own cup or mug to minimize waste.

"For six months of this year we supported the work of photojournalist Graham Hunt as he documented the activities of indigenous organizations who educate local communities about their rights in relation to mining corporations," says CCGAP Executive Director Sue Ellen Kingsley. "Graham had served previously as an accompanier to witnesses in the genocide trials, so he is well-acquainted with the issues of social justice and the environment."

Hunt has documented resistance to mega-developments, creating mobile photography exhibits for use by leaders working to raise awareness of indigenous rights.

Check out his work on these NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) blogs:
http://nisgua.blogspot.com/2010/12/huitan-rejects-mining.html

http://nisgua.blogspot.com/2010/12/communities-present-results-of.html

Hunt will be visiting Monday through Friday of next week. In addition to these public presentations, open to all, he will visit individual classes at Michigan Tech.

Global City is a Michigan Tech campus organization that brings together graduate students, undergraduates and faculty to share knowledge and experiences about global issues and cultural diversity. For more information, visit their Web site.

Read a letter from Graham Hunt on the CCGAP Web site.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sen. Levin speaks on Great Lakes Week, American Jobs Act

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., made the following statement honoring Great Lakes Week, a week-long summit in Detroit this week highlighting efforts to solve some of the most pressing problems facing the lakes.*

"I am delighted that so many people are in Detroit this week to celebrate the Great Lakes and work to protect them. The lakes are central to our economy, our history, our culture, and our future. Millions of people depend on these lakes for their drinking water, transportation, trade, employment and recreation. We need to ensure that our best efforts and most innovative solutions focus on the restoration and protection of these jewels."

Levin speaks on filibuster against American Jobs Act

On Oct. 12, 2011, Sen. Levin, along with a group of Senate colleagues, gave a Senate Floor speech on the Republican filibuster of the American Jobs Act. Here is an excerpt from the unofficial transcript of Sen. Levin's remarks:

"Madam President, more than 14 million Americans are without work. The American Jobs Act would help up to two million Americans get work or keep their jobs. It would prevent the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, firefighters and other first responders. The jobs bill would give tax cuts to millions of small businesses, would give incentives to those businesses to hire new workers. The American jobs act will provide a payroll tax cut to millions of American families. It would help our returning veterans find jobs. The American jobs act would put thousands of construction workers on the job repairing crumbling schools, building and repairing roads and bridges. Now, the chief economist for Moody's, Mark Zandi, estimates that this legislation would add two percentage points to economic growth and will reduce the unemployment rate by up to one full percentage point. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg believe this bill -- quote -- "would help avoid a return to recession." That's their words. That's what the majority of our economists say. Both sides of the aisle across the political spectrum...."

Click here to read the rest of this transcript and see a video.

* Click here for live streaming of Great Lakes Week events in Detroit.

Copper Harbor Winter Trails Fundraiser is Oct. 14

COPPER HARBOR -- A Copper Harbor Winter Trails Fundraiser -- a Pizza Party at the Mariner North -- will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14. For a $20 donation you can have all the pizza you care to eat!!!

Kids are $10; ages 5 and under Free.

All profits will support the purchase of new equipment for grooming the Copper Harbor Cross Country Ski Trails. The snowmobile groomers had been using for a number of years died at the end of last season. The hope is to buy a UTV to replace it, in addition to a leveling drag to better prepare a more consistent trail surface.

Consider coming up a night before the Keweenaw Cup cyclocross racing action on Saturday and Sunday afternoons!

Visit the Copper Harbor Trails Club Web site for more information.

Club Indigo to feature Italian classic film Oct. 14

CALUMET -- This Friday's (Oct. 14) Club Indigo at the Calumet Theatre features a 1951 Italian classic from the Neo-realist period in the country's filmmaking career.

Miracle in Milan, made by Vittorio de Sica, tells the story of the poor people living in "bumsvilles" outside the major cities. The focus is on one of them, a teen-age boy, Toto, who has been raised by a little old lady to love people and to always think of them as good. In the community of shacks he helps build a society that operates on his theory about good people, and all works well as long as his long dead lady sneaks down to earth with a white dove that brings wishes to life for Toto and his friends. Everything is fine until oil is discovered underneath their little village. That's when a crisis intervenes into their normally peaceful lives; and, just when all seems lost for them, a totally unique miracle occurs.

This feel-good movie won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film festival in 1952, and went on to win award after award globally after that. It has been compared to Nights of Cabiria for its essentially positive tone.

The movie begins at 7:15 p.m., preceded at 6 p.m. by a classic Italian buffet from the chefs at Carmelita's. Cost for both food and film, $18. Film alone, $5. Children get a discount for both.

Call the theatre for a seating at the buffet before Thursday evening: 337-2610.

Khana Khazana to offer Iranian cuisine Oct.14

HOUGHTON -- Traditional Iranian dishes including Kalam Pohloh (saffron rice mixed with meat, lentils and cabbage), Sholeh-Qalamkahr Ahsh (a thick soup) and Tar-Halvah (a two-color saffron pudding with rosewater aroma) will be on the menu at Khana Khazana Friday, Oct. 14, at Michigan Tech's Memorial Union Food Court. Sara Alian, an international graduate student from Iran, is the cook.

Khana Khazana is a weekly international lunch, a collaborative effort of international students and Dining Services. A full meal costs $6 and includes a drink. Individual items are $2. The lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Portage Library's new Law Depot data base offers useful service to library patrons

By Carol Johnson Pfefferkorn*

HOUGHTON -- This morning, I went to the Portage Lake District Library’s website, clicked on PLDL’s new Law Depot resource, and within 20 minutes had created a completed Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney document. All that is left is to print the document, obtain necessary signatures, and make several copies -- one which will be given to my health care provider.

Most patrons have a need for this kind of service. Law Depot claims that 60 percent of all US citizens do not have a will, and fewer than 10 percent of Americans have a Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney.

"Law Depot is intuitive and well organized," says Shawn Leche, PLDL Director. The Law Depot is "an awesome tool that allows patrons to conduct a multitude of legal transactions, such as writing a Last Will and Testament; preparing Living Will documents; preparing a renter’s lease; writing contracts, including real estate and bills of sale -- all from the convenience of your home."

The Law Depot is just one of many services provided to patrons of PLDL, at no cost.

"It fits in with my philosophy for libraries. I believe in a library without walls," Leche notes.

Portage Library also offers Universal Class, where you can enroll in any of 550 courses; Mango Languages, a language learning system offering more than 33 foreign languages and 13 English-as-a-second-language courses; and Learning Express, which provides more than 1,000 online career-oriented and educational learning resources, such as college and admissions prep, career and job search/prep, GED prep.

"My charge is to get the word out, so people can take advantage of a wealth of diverse learning opportunities at the library," Leche explains. "I want people to know about them and use them."

If you have questions, call the Portage Lake District Library at 906- 482-4570. Better yet, visit the PLDL Web site at www.pldl.org.

*Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now guest writer Carol Johnson Pfeffercorn recently moved to the Keweenaw from the Menominee area. In addition to writing, she is assisting Keweenaw Now with advertising and public relations.

Photo: Portage Lake District Library Director Shawn Leche, pictured here in his office, has acquired new data bases for the library -- accessible from patrons' home computers -- as part of his philosophy of having a "library without walls." (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Calumet Art Center to hold FUNDRAISER Oct. 13

Art works like this will be part of the Silent Auction at the Calumet Art Center FUNDRAISER on Thursday, Oct. 13. (Photos courtesy Ed Gray)

CALUMET -- The Calumet Art Center will hold a FUNDRAISER, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Don't miss the Silent Auction, fun and food.

Here are some more samples of the art to be offered in the Silent Auction:

Can you guess the name of the artist?

How about purchasing a beautiful hand-made rug at the Silent Auction?

The Calumet Art Center is located at 57055 Fifth Street, Calumet. For more information call (906) 281-3494.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jack Parker radio interview: Errors, omissions, deceptions in Kennecott Eagle Mine application

From Stand for the Land
Posted Oct. 10, 2011

HOUGHTON -- Stand for the Land reports that in an interview on "Copper Country Today," broadcast recently on The Wolf (97.7 FM) radio in Houghton, mining expert Jack Parker explains how he came to be a key opponent of Rio Tinto’s Eagle Mine Project, and why he has continued fighting for revocation of their permits.

Parker was initially hired by the National Wildlife Federation in 2006 to evaluate Kennecott’s application to mine. After a year and a quarter, the money ran out. He has continued working for free.

"We were astounded by the number of errors in it," Parker said. "We (recommended) that the document be returned to sender, collect, because it was so bad."

Parker explains in the interview some of the major flaws in the permit application that he and other experts determined could result in the instability of the proposed mine.

To listen to the interview, please click here:
http://www.thewolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/10-9-11-Segment-1.mp3

Editor's Notes:
To read about Jack Parker's reports on the Eagle Mine permit application, see our Dec. 6, 2010 article, "Mining expert Jack Parker says Eagle Mine likely to collapse."

To read Jack Parker's latest opinion column on the Eagle Mine, click here.

Sen. Carl Levin: Speech to the Detroit Economic Club

As Prepared for Delivery
Monday, October 10, 2011

It is an honor to appear again before the Detroit Economic Club. The impact of this forum on Detroit and the nation stretches back for decades. From its origins in the Great Depression to the National Summit in 2009 to its work today, the Economic Club has been at the forefront of efforts to promote prosperity for Michigan and beyond.

Today, that mission is more necessary than at any time in recent memory. And we're succeeding in that mission. I hope most of you have seen the headline on the front page of USA Today this morning: "Detroit Rising." And indeed it is. Barbara and I see it every time we walk from our apartment down to the riverfront, every time we see a new business opening downtown. Midtown is jumping. And now awareness is growing nationally -- not just that the Tigers and Lions are doing well, but that Detroit, and Michigan, are clawing back and coming back.

I wish I was as optimistic about what's happening in Washington as I am about what I see here in my hometown....

Click here to read the rest of Sen. Levin's speech on his hope for compromise in Congress, posted today, Oct. 10, 2011, on his Web site.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Opinion: Handling the Villains: RT/KEMC/DEQ

By Jack Parker*

RT/KEMC/DEQ: "Do anything, say anything -- to get the permits. We’ll fix it later."**

The month of September was a milestone in our "campaign" to overcome the activities of the villainous trio. They have prevailed. They have drilled and blasted at Eagle Rock. Five or six years of legal efforts have not stopped them. Those authorities who should have rebuked them continue to support them. The news media support them. Local police support them. Our ranks have floundered around aimlessly, without noticeable success.

Most of us do not "Know the enemy." So listen!

1. We do not realize the magnitude of the prize they seek. You have never seen a billion.

The first stage in exploitation is the Eagle orebody, said to be worth around 4.7 billion dollars. There is no good reason to believe that figure -- and RT/KEMC will not share the most recent numbers. They should. We shrug it off.

But get this: 4.7 billion is four thousand seven hundred million. That many dollars, end-to-end, would go around the equator 17.8 times. Get that picture into your mind and you may begin to fathom the intentions of RT/KEMC and how desperately they will act to get that prize. Never forget that prize. They won’t.

The Eagle project will open the door to several other projects, similarly rich. We are not dealing with amateurs. We have been bugging them like noseeums. They don’t bother to swat us, not yet.

2. We have some laws and they have ignored, altered and broken them. We allude to their crimes but allow them to deflect questions and criticisms. We let them do it! And whine to each other.

The public does not hear us. The Lower Peninsula treats us like a Third World country, to be exploited and used for recreation. We accept tourist dollars if and when they come.

It seems to me that the only way to hold back the exploiters is to bring their misdeeds to the attention of the Lower Peninsula. They too are being robbed.

3. The most obvious way to get that attention is to expose the lies and deceptions coming from RT/KEMC and their hangers-on, and we can do that by persistent and informed questioning of the criminals.

A story circulating currently is that some uranium may exist in the orebody and the KEMC will recover it. If true it will require significant changes in the mining and processing activities, hence in the permits.

If open and honest, as their propaganda claims, RT/KEMC would acknowledge the presence of uranium and deal with it.

If they ignore the matter we should pursue it. But hear this -- of more immediate significance:

We have in our hands clear evidence that the DEQ accepted the original application for permits illegally -- they ignored the opinions of the mining experts, including their own, that the document was far from acceptable. For that they should be prosecuted, and the DEQ acceptance should be reversed. Then all permits and agreements would be void.

It’s as simple as that. If we pursue it.

The Attorney General (AG) gave us an opening when he declared that one of his priorities was "To uncover and prosecute crime at ALL levels of state and local government."

Note that he and his Public Integrity Unit were going to handle the prosecution, not some impoverished Yoopers.

But, three months after receiving the evidence and a request for urgent action, AG Bill Schuette and his department are still stonewalling, doing nothing. That equates to supporting RT/KEMC/DEQ, i.e., not pursuing justice but the AG obstructing justice.

The last words coming from the A.G’s office, actually from Tom Cameron, were as follows:

"While I recognize how strongly you feel about this matter, and how much you disagree with the final decision to issue the permits and approve the application, I am simply not persuaded that this is a matter upon which we should direct our resources. Within the scope of prosecutorial discretion, we are closing our file without further
action.

Sincerely,

Thomas Cameron
Bureau Chief, Criminal Justice Bureau"

It’s almost laughable, isn’t it! B.S. But I said that already, five years ago. Verbatim.
I have, of course, responded to Tom’s letter, pointing out how they had missed the point, and asking them to reconsider, immediately. It was mailed, certified, 9.26.2011.

Now get this folks: Two individuals have handed you an uncomplicated case against the initial DEQ wrongdoing, which would pull the rug from under the RT/KEMC/DEQ Coalition.*** We have seen no support from our attorneys, from the media (with one notable exception), from most of the environmental groups, from Yoopers in general. You heard about it three months ago.

But you do nothing to support it.

Do you enjoy your misery? Your martyrdom? Or will you "Take the money" and be quiet?

JP

Editor's Notes:

* 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.

** Rio Tinto, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co., Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

*** One environmental group, WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth) joined Parker and Laura Gauger in writing to the Michigan Attorney General on this issue. See: "Environmental group asks Michigan A.G. to investigate allegations of fraud at DEQ."