Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Questions on Eagle East: DEQ to hold public meeting June 8

From: Mining Action Group*

This aerial photograph shows (1) Eagle Mine facility and active drill rigs in the (2) southern drilling area for Eagle East, (3) northern drilling area for Eagle East and (4) eastern drilling area for Eagle East. The general location of the Eagle East ore body, some 3000 feet below the surface, is outlined by the large circle. Click on photo for larger version. (May 2017 photograph © Jeremiah Eagle Eye)

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is holding a public meeting on the permit amendment request to expand Eagle Mine's operations to include Eagle East -- and eight kilometers of tunnels to connect these ore bodies. The public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8, 2017, at the Westwood High School, 300 Westwood Dr, Ishpeming.**

While the proposed permit "amendment" is described as a "significant change" to the Eagle Mine permit, Eagle East is actually a new ore body, located beyond the previously permitted boundary of Eagle Mine. More mining spells serious trouble for the environment, with a widening industrial footprint and impacts never considered under the original permit. More mining means more tailings, more dewatering, and an increased risk of water contamination.

QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT EAGLE EAST

1. Lundin Mining claims that the Eagle East deposit will extend the life of Eagle Mine by only one or two years. What the mine doesn’t mention is that this modest extension to life of the mine comes at a cost: increased truck traffic, increased air emissions, more toxic mining waste permanently stored in a pit lake at Humboldt Mill, and increased discharge of pollutants to the Middle Branch of the Escanaba River. Is Eagle East worth the enormous environmental footprint?

2. Lundin describes the combined ore as "Eagle ore" but Eagle and Eagle East are two different ore bodies, born from different volcanogenic events and sources. The new Eagle East ore body contains higher grades of copper and nickel, as well as other toxic heavy metals.

3. How will this new ore body impact water quality? The Eagle East ore body is located three thousand feet below the surface, so the ore and waste rock contain high quantities of entrapped salts from ancient brines, laced with heavy metals. This will, in turn, create long-term problems for the Humboldt Pit, where the addition of huge amounts of Eagle East waste tailings will dramatically increase Total Dissolved Solids. At the present Eagle Mine, the wastewater treatment plant will also need a new crystallizer to handle the salts and metals.

4. Last year’s undisclosed "partial pillar collapse" at Eagle Mine draws the overall safety of the expansion into question.*** Has the underlying geology been thoroughly studied? Can we trust Lundin to tell us when our watersheds and their employees are in danger? Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that a Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation found that a significant "large block failure" resulted from an undetected rock fracture. Mining experts have repeatedly warned that the Eagle ore body is filled with hard-to-map "smaller-scale discontinuities that could weaken the rock mass." Was the data correctly interpreted? Has the stability of Eagle Mine been dangerously overestimated from the beginning? Concerns about last year’s rock failure at Eagle Mine must be addressed before the company’s mining permit is amended.

Written public comment on the proposed permit amendment will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 6, 2017. Send all comments to DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including "Eagle East Permit Amendment" as the subject, or mail them to:

DEQ Eagle East Permit Amendment
Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals
1504 West Washington Street
Marquette, MI 49855

Editor's Notes:

* The Mining Action Group (MAG), formerly Save the Wild U.P., is a volunteer grassroots effort defending the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. MAG is a new semi-autonomous arm of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC).

** See Keweenaw Now's May 30, 2017, announcement of the public meeting: "MDEQ to hold public meeting on Eagle East Mining Permit Application Amendment June 8; public comments accepted until July 6."

*** See the Mining Action Group's May 25, 2017, article, "Eagle Mine Buries Underground Collapse," citing details of a 2016 underground collapse incident at Eagle Mine and grave concerns with the company’s lack of transparency. 

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