Thursday, September 13, 2012

Letter: Opinion: To the People of the UP, concerning Rio Tinto Eagle Forums

Rio Tinto has made arrangements to present their point of view by meeting with the public, discussing the project and answering questions asked by the people, at several forums.

Considering that the presentations will, naturally, be designed to present RT and Kennecott and the project and the future in a good light, and that the general public, (apart from those anticipating considerable financial gain from the enterprise) have very little expertise upon which to base their questions, I, the only trained, independent, experienced mining engineer showing interest in the project, would like to help the people to ask the right questions which, if answered, would lead to a better understanding of what is going on and what lies in the future.

The questions should be asked in writing and in public speaking, insisting on clear responses, i.e., no corporate boilerplate and no "Because we say so!" responses such as we have heard so far.

These questions should be asked at each and every forum and provided to the media for publication. No secrets are involved. There is no misinformation, no slander, no defamation, nothing objectionable.

They (Rio Tinto) will, of course, invite questions and will, of course, answer them openly and transparently. I trust that means honestly -- but that is nowhere stated specifically.

To help them do that I am going to present just nine simple, straightforward basic questions, expecting simple, straightforward basic answers, as advertised. This preview will help RT to prepare responses.

1. Have you, the designated spokespersons, read and understood the 2006 application for mining permits? If not, then why not? How can you speak for the project?
2. Did you notice, in the presentation concerning rock quality and rock mass ratings  (RQD and RMRs, on which the mine design and the safety factors were founded) -- they actually excluded long sections of poor rock which would threaten stability?
3. Did you know that if those excluded rocks were included, as of course they should be, then the design calculations would lead to Factors of Safety lower than 1.0 -- predicting instability of mine and surface, i.e., probable collapse?*
4. Did you know that this matter has been brought to the attention of KEMC and Rio Tinto management, including HQ in London, and that they neither acknowledge the warning nor change the design methodology?
5. Is it wise to press on with mine development without those changes? Please explain.
6. On a slightly different topic: Do you expect to mine only the hi-grade ore, lasting about seven years?
7. Why not plan to blend in the lower-grade "mineralized peridotite," which is still valuable, to gain an additional 1,700,000,000 dollars and another 16 years of mine life?  That, surely, would be the responsible way to mine the deposit -- which you expound in your prospectus. It is also required by law.
8. With reference to "Open and transparent" dealing with the public -- what other local deposits show promise of ore in the proven, probable and possible categories? We too need to plan our future and the future of our environment -- for all time.
 9. Why not revert to the original ore transportation plan -- to truck to a railhead near Marquette and ship direct to concentrator -- knowing that most of the "waste" in the high-grade ores will be recoverable and marketable iron and sulfur? No milling, no tailings, simplest transportation, more income. That should benefit us all.

That should be enough questions for starters. Be sure to insist on clear responses.

Thank you for this opportunity to contribute.

Sincerely,

Jack Parker, Mining Engineer
Toivola, MI 49963

* Editor's Notes: For details on this opinion of the instability of the Eagle Mine, see our December 6, 2010, article "Mining expert Jack Parker says Eagle Mine likely to collapse."

Click here to see the schedule of Rio Tinto community forums.

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