Friday, March 01, 2019

Is "Michigan’s Mining Future" a Shared Vision?

This photo of the Triple A Road near Big Bay, Michigan, shows impacts on a previously forested environment caused during construction of the Eagle Mine. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P., now UPEC's Mining Action Group)

Posted on Feb. 22, 2019, by the Mining Action Group of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition
Reprinted with permission.

 MARQUETTE -- Environmental groups working to protect Upper Michigan’s natural resources from the environmental hazards of metallic mining are questioning the intent of the "Michigan’s Mining Future" legislation, introduced by State Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette).

House Bill 4227 would create a governor-appointed "Committee on Michigan’s Mining Future."

The purpose of the advisory-only committee would be to develop "legislative and policy recommendations" to "enhance the growth of the mining, minerals and aggregate industry" and "strengthen and develop a sustainable mining industry in Michigan."

"House Bill 4227, in its focus on economic development, ignores the scope of environmental problems caused by mining," said Horst Schmidt, president of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC). "Environmental groups may be invited to the table, but the make-up of this committee suggests the outcome -- more mining -- is almost inevitable. Meanwhile, we are still spending hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up after historic mining booms: polluted lakes and streams, abandoned mines, mercury in wetlands, tailings that threaten Lake Superior fisheries, and more. We advise U.P. residents to keep all options open, rather than going head-long into more disastrous mining cycles."

Jon Magnuson of the Interfaith Northern Great Lakes Water Stewards said, "We applaud Rep. Cambensy’s effort, but raise cautionary questions about the balance of representation on the committee. A larger vision of wise environmental stewardship is required, and the understanding that we must live within 'sustainable' limits in order protect our natural resources."

According to Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) Deputy Policy Director Sean Hammond, MEC cannot support this bill in its present state because it fails to include natural resource protection from mining.

"This legislation in its current state does not provide a good framework to protect Michigan’s precious natural resources when considering future mining projects," Hammond noted. "Although this bill does provide a platform for a needed discussion on the future of mining, especially with continued questions on the implementation of our mining statutes, the way in which it is currently written too heavily favors growing mining, with no mention of natural resource protection. Therefore, we cannot support this bill."

Kathleen Heideman of the Mining Action Group (formerly Save the Wild U.P.), who has studied many mining industry applications for permits to mine in the Upper Peninsula and has challenged several of them at public hearings, questioned the bill's suggestion that mining is central to Michigan's future.*

"I welcome the news that the State may be ready to take a clear-eyed look at mining in the Upper Peninsula," Heideman said. "As the district most impacted by metallic mining, we must understand mistakes of the past and address current regulatory challenges, in order to ensure a 'sustainable' environment going forward. This bill suggests a foregone conclusion: that mining is central to Michigan’s future. Is that true? I am not convinced that we have a shared vision of Michigan’s future."

UPEC Board member Jeffrey Towner said House Bill 4227 in its present form describes a committee that is unbalanced, with environmental and tribal groups underrepresented.

"The long-term impacts to the human environment from mining are at least as, if not more, important than expanding mining operations in Michigan," Towner said. "But the proposed Committee -- three representatives of the mining industry, a union representative, and two faculty members specializing in geology or mining, versus only two representatives of environmental groups -- would relegate those speaking for the environment to token representation, stacking the deck six to two, plus one position for a recognized Native American representative. We suggest that the committee be expanded to include two faculty members with specialties in ecology, water quality, wildlife biology, or a related field, and four, rather than two, representatives of environmental organizations. Only with such a committee makeup will there be a fair balance of interests."

Environmental groups in the U.P. say they were not involved in crafting House Bill 4227.

"In the past 175 years, Michigan’s environment has suffered greatly in the pursuit of mining profits. And in the past ten years, we’ve had enough of the 'economy over environment' paradigm, with environmental agencies doing as much to facilitate the exploitation of our public trust resources as they do to protect them," said Jon Saari, board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition. "We look forward to meeting with Representative Cambensy to share our vision of Michigan’s future."**

For more info on House Bill 4227, click here. To learn about State Rep. Sara Cambensy and to see her contact information click here.

Notes:

* The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG), formerly known as Save the Wild U.P., is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. Contact the Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call 906-201-1949. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org.

** Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.

Editor's Note: Michigan House Democrats appear to believe that HB 4227 "would create [a] committee to develop safe, sustainable mining strategies." See "Cambensy Bill Lays Groundwork for Michigan’s Mining Future."

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Anishinabek Nation mourns passing of Grandmother Water Walker Josephine Mandamin

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare greets Grandmother Josephine Mandamin as she arrives at the 2017 Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Assembly in Aamjiwnaang First Nation with other Water Walkers. (Photo courtesy Anishinabek News)

Posted on Feb. 22, 2019, in Anishinabek News* 
Reprinted here with permission.

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE -- The Anishinabek Nation mourns the passing of our Grandmother, our Water Commissioner, our kind and gentle Water Protector, Biidaasige -- Josephine Mandamin.

"It is a very sad day. We have lost a great advocate, teacher, and role model. She will be so deeply missed by all and will be fondly remembered for all of what she did to protect the water. Our prayers are with Josephine as she begins her journey home into the Spirit World and back to her ancestors," expressed Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare. "Our thoughts of comfort are with Josephine’s family and community as they prepare for her journey."

Josephine Mandamin, originally from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and affectionately called Grandmother Water Walker or Grandmother Josephine, dedicated her life to protecting the water and giving it a voice. She made it her life’s mission to raise consciousness about the fragility of water and emphasize that water is precious, sacred, and one of the basic elements required for all life to exist. Water is life.

"Through all of the years of Josephine’s determination and dedication to raise awareness through her legendary Great Lakes Water Walks, it is my hope that the world hears her message -- that water is life!" stated Grand Council Chief Hare. "Our world is a better place because of Josephine’s efforts and those of us who will continue her work to protect our life-giving Nibi, not only to honour her legacy, but to ensure water, the world over, is protected. What a remarkable Anishinaabkwe we have had the absolute pleasure of knowing and learning from."

Grandmother Josephine founded Mother Earth Water Walks -- an initiative that brings awareness to the risks and threats to the health and sustainability of our waterways. Through that initiative, she has walked the shorelines of the five Great Lakes as well as in all four directions of Turtle Island -- bringing water from all oceans together. She has walked the equivalent of half of the earth’s circumference while building awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of water.

As part of her advocacy role, she conducted community ceremonies where she would unite communities with water and empower them to start their own water walks to bring awareness to local lakes and watersheds. Grandmother Josephine has touched the lives of many and inspired a whole new generation of water walkers and warriors.

In her capacity as the Chief Commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Water Commission, she was a predominant contributor and leader of the Great Lakes Guardians’ Council, established under the Great Lakes Protection Act. She was also previously on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in 2006.

She was also honoured with an Anishinabek Nation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016 for Excellence in Conservation for Water Walks, and received distinctions and honours from the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Sean Atleo, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Ontario Native Women’s Association and from the Mayor of Duluth Minnesota.

* Thanks to Anishinabek News for this article. Please visit their Web site here.

Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now wishes to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Josephine Mandamin and her fellow water walkers. We had the privilege of meeting Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, her sister Melvina Flamand, and her grandson Joshua Metansinine at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, where they spoke to Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) members during their 2011 Water Walk.

Josephine Mandamin speaks to water walkers and visitors during the reception held by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community members on June 8, 2011, at Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, Michigan. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Click here to read our Aug. 5, 2011, article, "Updated: KBIC welcomes 2011 Mother Earth Water Walk participants."

UPDATE: Grandmother Josephine would be proud of these water walkers, now on their way from Mackinaw City to Lansing to protest Line 5: "Indigenous trio walks from Mackinaw City to Lansing to call for a shutdown of Line 5."