See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kivajat Children's Dance Group to host fundraising dance in South Range Apr. 24

HANCOCK -- To raise funds for a trip to Finland this summer, the Kivajat Children’s Finnish-American Folk Dance Group is hosting an Old-Time Copper Country Dance beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 24, at the South Range Community Center.

Members of the Kivajat Children’s Finnish-American Folk Dance Group perform at Michigan Tech's 2008 International Night in the Rozsa Center. (File videoclip © 2008 Keweenaw Now)

Kivajat director Kay Seppala says the evening will feature "great dancing, great food and great fun. Bring grandma, bring the kids!"

For just $5 admission (children 12 and under are free), folks can dance to good ethnic music by the Thimbleberry Band and the Pasi Cats, as well as enjoy a performance by the Kivajat, who will use the funds to help them travel to Finland and represent the Copper Country at a dance festival this July.

For folks who work up an appetite during the waltzes, polkas, schottisches and swing dancing, the Kivajat Moms will provide an array of refreshments, including some tasty Finnish baked goods. A silent auction will also take place during the dance.

For more information about the dance, or about how you can help the Kivajat fund their travels, call Seppala at 523-6271.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day! Attend film showing, discussion on proposed UP mining

View of Salmon Trout River where Kennecott Eagle Minerals, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, plans to put a sulfide mine for nickel and coppper. (Photo courtesy SavetheWildUP)

HOUGHTON -- Happy Earth Day! What is the Earth without fresh water? Show you care about protecting the Lake Superior watershed from mining threats by attending the showing of the award-winning documentary Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance at 7 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Apr. 22, in Fisher 135 on the Michigan Tech campus. A panel of scientists and activists will hold a question-answer session after the film. See details in articles below or click here.

Big Fish Bonanza Indoor Expo to be Apr. 26 in Hancock

HANCOCK -- The Upper Peninsula Fishing Tournament Trail (UPFT) Springtime Big Fish Bonanza Indoor Fishing and Sports Show will be held from Noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Apr. 26, at the Houghton County Arena, Hancock Fairgrounds. A Big Fish-n-Boat Float Parade at 11 a.m. will precede the Expo.

Expo activities include a fish fry dinner with a $1000 cash drawing; new and used boat, tackle and sports gear swap; a big fish mounts exhibit; 2008 U.P. Angler Awards; trout pond and derby; entertainment, contests and more.

The family event is a community fundraiser for the UPFT, to support future walleye fishing tournaments in the area.

Admission is $5 for 12 and up, $3.50 for ages 6 to 12 and Seniors, free for children under 6. Admission includes the Expo, drawings for public raffles and the Big Cast Contest. Fish Fry Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door and include the $1000 drawing and the Expo.

Advertising sponsors, vendors and concessions, entertainers, volunteers and hired help may still be needed. For more information call Aaron Gagnon at (906) 281-0678 or email

Children's book illustrator to offer family workshop Apr. 23 at Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- Children's book illustrator Wendy Halperin will present "Drawing Children into Reading" at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Apr. 23, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

Halperin has years of experience in teaching children how to draw and linking artwork to literacy. Her work emphasizes the connection between the development of fine motor skills and the development of the brain.

This will be a hands on presentation for families and children. Halperin will teach participants how to draw. All art materials will be provided.

"In all of her workshops like this, the results have been stunning," said Chris Alquist, Portage Lake District Library Community Programs coordinator.

Please check Wendy's website at You will recognize many of the books she has so beautifully illustrated.

This program is co-sponsored by the Copper Country Reading Council and the Portage Lake District Library.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

UP citizens address Rio Tinto Board in London concerning Eagle Mine

LONDON, UK -- A beleaguered Rio Tinto board defended itself from criticisms coming from a number of shareholders at the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) last Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2009, in London, England. High on shareholders' minds was the proposed $19.5 billion deal to sell access to a number of key company assets, including Kennecott Minerals, to the Chinese government-owned Chinalco as part of what many speakers described as offensive to existing shareholders and a direct result of poor investment and management decisions made by the company over the last several years.

At the meeting, Lutheran pastor Jon Magnuson, from Marquette, presented a document signed by one hundred faith leaders of ten faith traditions in Marquette, Baraga and Keweenaw counties. Magnuson said that the document was part of a petition that collected roughly ten thousand citizens' names in opposition to Rio Tinto’s Eagle Project nickel and copper mine, located on the Yellow Dog Plains in Marquette County.

"Many of our parishioners and members of our faith communities are . . . involved in the mining industry," said Magnuson. "But on this particular project we have taken a very strong position -- in this place, at this time, for these specific reasons. And one is the massive environmental damage that is threatened to the Great Lakes; and the second and most prominent concern is that what we perceive and experience is a cavalier dismissal of the claims of one of the major Indian tribes in Michigan, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community."*

In response, company CEO Tom Albanese said that Rio Tinto is "not unmindful of the questions and the controversy" and claimed that Rio Tinto Copper CEO Bret Clayton "visited the site and met with a number of the stakeholders as a result of requests of some of the questions that came up in last year’s AGM."

While Clayton did visit with a number of parties sympathetic to the mine’s development, including the local Chamber of Commerce and various local politicians, he made no attempt to meet with tribal representatives or with other Michigan citizens opposed to the mine.

Eagle Project's unsafe crown pillar design noted at meeting

Gabriel Caplett from Skandia, Mich., spoke to a lack of competence and care in designing the Eagle Project mine.

"I’m just wondering if other shareholders are curious as to why this project hasn’t been brought on line yet and I think there’s a very simple reason for that and it lies within the mine design itself," said Caplett. "The mine as designed could be charged with fraud under Michigan’s metallic mining law. The mine, as designed, would collapse -- the crown pillar holding up the mine ceiling would collapse. Many technical experts have agreed on that."

Caplett explained that Dr. David Sainsbury, a rock mechanics expert hired by the State of Michigan to review the mine’s mine structure inquired with Rio Tinto if anyone at the company had rock mechanic’s expertise.

"He didn’t receive a response" said Caplett.

Sainsbury, who was transferred to work overseas after continually reporting to the State that the company’s conclusions regarding the crown pillar’s stability were "not defensible," told a mine engineering colleague that the Eagle application, produced by Golder and Associates and Foth and VanDyke, was equivalent to "high school level" work.

Caplett asked the Rio Tinto board if, after deferring the Eagle Project mine, they would be willing to waste any more shareholder money on this project or would ultimately abandon it.

Rio Tinto shareholders note company's unethical practices

Two shareholders addressed concerns regarding Rio Tinto’s continued involvement in the controversial Grasberg Mine, in West Papua. According to shareholder Andrew Hickman, last year the government of Norway divested roughly $800 million in shares, calling the company’s record in West Papua "grossly unethical." Hickman said that mine officials have acknowledged paying the Indonesian military "less than" $1.6 million to guard the facility and repress local opposition to the mine.

Other shareholders addressed the recently acknowledged leakage of roughly one hundred thousand liters of contaminated tailings water at Rio Tinto’s Ranger uranium mine in Australia, as well as concerns regarding the company’s joint venture arrangement with Muriel Mining Co. in Colombia. The latter venture has forced the relocation of an indigenous community and occupied a sacred mountain.

The Reverend Magnuson and Caplett also met with representatives at the Church of England’s Pension Board and Ethical Investment Advisory Group and with the United Kingdom’s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Review.

For photos and more information visit:

* For video coverage of Rev. Magnuson speaking in London, click here.

Editor's Note: This press release courtesy Save the Wild UP. Read about the documentary film on the proposed Eagle Mine, to be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Apr. 22 (Earth Day) in Fisher 135 on the Michigan Tech campus. The film will be followed by a panel discussion / question-answer session with scientists and activists.

Kennecott ignores EPA request on drinking water for 3 years

MARQUETTE -- For three years, an official request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for specific information on the proposed metallic sulfide mine has gone unanswered by Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co., a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, according to EPA correspondence.

In a letter dated Mar. 13, 2009, Rebecca Harvey, chief of the underground injection control branch of EPA, prodded the mining company for information relevant to ground water safety for the third time in as many years.

"We are requesting that you respond to our questions in order to assist us in determining whether this is any endangerment of an underground source of drinking water," Harvey stated in the letter.

The first request for this information came in March 2006, according to Harvey. Although the company responded to some questions previously, they have failed to respond to EPA inquiries about the proposed mine backfill. Apparently not content to continue waiting, Harvey attached an Apr. 30, 2009, deadline to her request.

Opponents of the proposed mine have consistently expressed concern regarding ground water safety and question why the company has failed to cooperate with the EPA request for three years.

"Kennecott’s evasiveness on questions related directly to the safety of drinking water sources raises another red flag about the company’s ability to operate a mine safely," said Michelle Halley, Lake Superior Project Manager for National Wildlife Federation. "The company submitted its application to mine more than two years ago. Are they refusing to provide the required items or are they simply lacking this critical information? Neither of those scenarios provides any comfort to the citizens of Marquette County."

Halley will be at Michigan Tech to participate in the panel discussion / question-answer session on the proposed sulfide mine, following the showing of the award-winning documentary Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Earth Day, Apr. 22, in Fisher 135. See more details on this event.

MTU Earth Day event Apr. 22 to feature anti-mining film, local activists, scientists

HOUGHTON -- The award-winning documentary Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance will be shown at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Apr. 22 (Earth Day 2009) in Fisher Hall Room 135 at Michigan Technological University (MTU).

Mining Madness, Water Wars illustrates the stories behind a controversial proposal to develop a mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The documentary describes scientists’, community activists’, and tribal officials’ views on the project’s flaws, which could place workers in peril and jeopardize a Lake Superior tributary and its watershed, and the lack of responsiveness of the government agencies responsible for reviewing permit applications from the company proposing the mine.

Following the showing of the film, there will be a question and answer session with a panel of several of the activists and scientists featured in the film, including Michelle Halley, Senior Manager, National Wildlife Federation; Cynthia Pryor, Executive Director, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve; Stan Vitton, Mining Engineer and MTU Professor; Jack Parker, Mining Engineer; and David Flaspohler, Wildlife Biologist and MTU Professor.

This event is sponsored by the Society of Environmental Engineers, Michigan Technological University. Mining Madness, Water Wars: The Great Lakes in the Balance was underwritten by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and produced by Brauer Productions, Inc., and Summit Public Relations Strategies, LLC.