Monday, October 12, 2015

Letter to DNR: Moratorium on Upper Peninsula mineral leases needed to protect watersheds, land use imbalance

[Editor's Note: Today, Oct. 12, is the deadline for public comments on North American Nickel's request for a metallic mineral lease from the State of Michigan on 320 acres of public land in Section 35 of Michigamme Township, Marquette County, Michigan. Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay submitted the following letter to the DNR and has shared it with Keweenaw Now. The following is reprinted here with permission.]*

Karen Maidlow
Property Analyst, Minerals Management
Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI 48909

Dear Ms. Maidlow:
I am writing these public comments urging you and the MDNR to reject the mineral lease for North American Nickel for a 320 acre state owned parcel in northwest Marquette County. The main reason for rejection by the MDNR is the sensitivity of the location with regards to wetlands and watersheds. The area is also rich in historical and cultural history for this area of Marquette County and the State of Michigan.

In addition to aforementioned reasons, all mineral lease requirements and criteria for metallic minerals in the Upper Peninsula need to reexamined and rewritten. When the current criteria were written, the specter of a new mining region and possible boom did not exist. The potential accumulated impacts of such a region by this segment of the mining industry places this entire region at serious risk for watershed decimation and land use fragmentation.

These mineral leases within the area known as the Yellow Dog Plains are going to continue indefinitely as speculators crowd in regardless of proof of mineralization. If a mineral lease is granted and product is found, a permit will be issued regardless of risk involved. The DEQ will only make an attempt to minimize the risk as much as economically feasible to the lessee, not the interests of the other stakeholders (public) involved and affected.

Until the current system of granting mineral leases particular to this area of the state is reexamined and rewritten with a critical eye to both process and effects to non-leased lands and non-mineral extraction interests, there needs to be a moratorium on mineral leases. The minerals are not going anywhere. They will wait. To not correct the significant imbalance of negative effects caused to other lands and stakeholders outside the leased areas will lead to a totally out of balanced land use opportunity situation in this region that may never again be realized. Please deny this request for a mineral lease.

In addition, I respectfully ask that you pass on the above request for a moratorium to the proper agency personnel.

Thank you,

Gene Champagne                                                      
Big Bay, MI 49808

* Editor's Note: To learn more about this issue see our Oct. 6, 2015, article, "Nickel company seeks 320-acre metallic mineral lease on state land near Eagle Mine; comment deadline is Oct. 12."

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