Saturday, March 16, 2013

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve: Rio Tinto Eagle Mine highly criticized at Public Hearing for Air Quality Permit

From Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve
Posted March 13, 2013, on their blog
Reprinted with permission

BIG BAY, MICH. -- The informational session and public hearing about Rio Tinto’s latest Permit to Install (PTI) application for proposed modifications to the Eagle Project brought attention to concerns about air quality, the environment and public health last night. Almost all of the attendees who spoke at the hearing were against the permit modifications.

There were around 60-65 people in attendance but the space felt very sparse as there were still many rows of empty seats in the Michigan/Huron room at Northern Michigan University’s University Center in Marquette, MI. A question and answer portion at 5 p.m. offered some attendees the chance to raise carefully composed questions about the situation to a panel of air quality experts who sat before us.

Although public questions were well articulated and based on the documents provided, the panel was not able to answer all questions satisfactorily. The experts evaded questions related to water stating they were not water quality experts. One main topic of discussion was the proposed plan to eliminate the fabric filter dust collector or Bag House on the MVAR (Main Ventilation Air Raise). In other words, the main vent for all underground operations will not have a filter at all if this permit is approved by the DEQ. The panel said that the underground dust will be controlled through the use of water and a hose instead of using a pollution control device. The water to be used for this purpose is of unknown quality and the process was not well known. Many participants were concerned about the baseline air quality data because it is geographically irrelevant, and collected in Gwinn, not the Yellow Dog Plains. Several participants also expressed concerns about computer modeling that was used to predict the emission of particulate matter. One person commented that computer modeling for mining has been found to be inaccurate 50 percent of the time based on a study. Other comments included: the lack of public trust in the company, a need for more not less environmental protective measures, the need for additional modeling which is stated in the participatory documents, the lack of a Cumulative Impacts Analysis, and the lack of a mechanism for 24/7 emissions testing.

The period for written public comments has been extended to March 18, 2013. To submit your comment please click on the link: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/cwerp.shtml.

"If no one had opposed the mine from the beginning and we all just laid down and said 'oh well the mine is coming’ -- things would be much worse than they are now," said Chauncey Moran, the Yellow Dog Riverwalker.

"Our community feels like their concerns are not being heard, but they are. We are still affecting the way this is playing out. I really respect and appreciate the courageous few who remain dedicated to standing up for the people of their community and making their voices heard. Keep up the good fight," said Mindy Otto, Assistant Manager of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

Click here to read comments on this article, posted on the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve blog, or to comment directly on their site.

To learn more about the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and their work, click here.

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