Wednesday, March 06, 2013

MDEQ to hold public hearing on Rio Tinto air permit for Eagle Mine Mar. 12; comment period extended to Mar. 18

[Editor's Note: Please see below for UPDATES. Also, we have corrected our error on the day of the hearing. We originally stated the hearing as scheduled for Monday, but it will be Tuesday, March 12.]

MARQUETTE -- The comment period on Rio Tinto's Permit to Install Application No. 50-06B for proposed modifications to the Eagle Project near Big Bay, Mich., has been extended to March 18, 2013. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in the Northern Michigan University, University Center, Michigan/Huron Room, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, Mich.

The modifications include eliminating on-site ore crushing, adding an enclosed aggregate storage building, and eliminating the fabric filter dust collector, along with other changes.*

An informational session will be held from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., at which time staff will be available to answer questions. The public hearing will follow at 7 p.m. The sole purpose of the hearing will be to take formal testimony on the record. During testimony, questions will not be answered; however, staff will be available to answer questions outside the hearing room. Individuals needing accommodations for effective participation at the hearing should contact Ms. Cari DeBruler at 517-335-4607 to request mobility, visual, hearing, or assistance.

The public comment period and hearing are to allow all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the Department’s proposed conditional approval of a Permit to Install (PTI). It has been preliminarily determined that the modification of the Eagle Project will not violate any of the Department’s rules nor the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. According to MDEQ, the facility’s impact will not exceed 80 percent of the available increments for nitrogen oxides, particulate matter less than ten microns, and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns.

Copies of the Department staff’s analysis and proposed permit conditions are available for inspection at the following locations, or you may request a copy be mailed to you by calling 517-335-4607. Please reference Permit to Install Application Number 50-06B:


LANSING: MDEQ, AQD, Constitution Hall, 3rd Floor, North Tower, 525 West Allegan Street, Lansing (Phone: 517-335-4607)

GWINN: MDEQ, AQD, 420 Fifth Street, Gwinn (Phone: 906-346-8300)

MICHIGAMME TOWNSHIP: 202 West Main Street, Michigamme (Phone: 906-323-6608)

MARQUETTE COUNTY: Clerk’s Office, Courthouse Annex, 234 West Baraga Avenue, Marquette (Phone: 906-225-8330)

The public is encouraged to present written views on the proposed permit action. Written comments should be sent to Ms. Mary Ann Dolehanty, Permit Section Supervisor, Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760.

Comments may also be submitted from the webpage
(click on "Submit Comment" under the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine LLC, Permit to Install No. 50-06B listing). All statements received by March 18, 2013, will be considered by the decision-maker prior to final permit action.

* The Eagle Mine facility is located at 6510 AAA Road, Michigamme Township, Michigan. The New Source Review public notice documents can be viewed at

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve warns of dangerous air pollution

According to the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) Web site, the Yellow Dog Plains is threatened by Rio Tinto, now with the ability under law, to pollute the air until they reach the limit of the air quality standard set by the EPA. This action could bring air quality dangerously close to the air quality in places such as Detroit and Chicago. The emissions taken into consideration are only representative of the mine area itself, not including any of the diesel emissions and fugitive dust from transportation.

"If the original plan was to have this air pollution control device installed, it should stay that way. There is no reason to reduce the protective measures in order to keep this area’s resources as great as they already are, especially with such high quality waterways like the Salmon-Trout and Yellow Dog River nearby. My bet is Rio Tinto has the funds to keep this device in the plan," says Emily Whittaker, Executive Director of YDWP.

Cynthia Pryor, Board Member of YDWP, states, "We must also demand that Rio Tinto keep the promise that they made in their original permit (made as a result of public comment and pressure!) to put an air filter on the main polluting source at the site -- the MVAR (main ventilation air rise) stack. 'PROMISES KEPT' is Rio Tinto’s main motto. Let us make them hold to that promise."*

Click here to read more from YDWP.

* UPDATES: See Cynthia Pryor's detailed article about this air permit, "Analysis: Rio Tinto’s Permit Modifications," posted March 4, 2013, on savethewildup.

Comments from Rio Tinto:

On March 8, Rio Tinto's Dan Blondeau sent these comments to Keweenaw Now concerning the above article:

"Our modeled emissions are so low that a baghouse would not be effective," Blondeau writes.** "It's unnecessary to build, install and power a device that cannot guarantee a reduction in already very low emissions. The emissions were modeled using EPA method five. The models were run by MDEQ AQD (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Air Quality Division) and Eagle."

Blondeau also adds the following: "In December 2007, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued Rio Tinto with mine, air and groundwater discharge permits for Eagle.

"Since issuance of the original permits, we’ve refined the design of the mine, and we have identified measures that can improve overall air emissions from operations. MDEQ requires a new permit application to be filed if there is a change in quality, nature or quantity impact of emissions.

"In accordance with state regulations, Eagle prepared a new permit application which was delivered to MDEQ in 2012.

"Key changes to our mine plan relevant to emissions include, but are not limited to:
  • Funding upgrade to existing electrical power grid, therefore replacing three diesel generators originally designed to provide on-site electricity
  • Relocating ore crushing activities to the mill
  • Transferring backfill plant to the surface
  • Elimination of underground emission sources and better dust management underground
  • Fully enclosed the Coarse Ore Storage Area (COSA)
  • Paving the access road (security gate to surface facilities)."
** A baghouse is an air pollution control device. Rio Tinto believes a baghouse would not be effective now because of their refined mine design that eliminates emission sources, Blondeau explains.

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