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Saturday, April 30, 2011

WAVE holds rally, street theater to protest Snyder refusal

Members of WAVE, a new grassroots citizens' group opposed to the Rio Tinto - Kennecott Eagle Mine, perform street theater during their April 29 rally in Marquette. Click on photo for larger version. (Photo courtesy WAVE Steering Committee)

By Michele Bourdieu

MARQUETTE -- WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth) -- a grassroots citizens' group challenging Rio Tinto's Eagle Mine -- held a rally and street theater Friday, April 29, in Marquette in response to Governor Snyder's 'passing off' their request for a comprehensive environmental impact study for the Eagle Mine.

Along with their request, WAVE had also provided the Governor with copies of petitions, signed by over 15,000 persons, that expressed concern about the risks posed by the mine. They were signed by a cross section of Michigan citizens.

Gov. Snyder referred the group's request to Dan Wyant, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) director, who wrote to the group, saying, "Kennecott did, in fact, have a comprehensive environmental impact assessment done for the project, along with a mining and reclamation plan and a contingency plan to assure protection of public health, safety, and the environment in the event of accidents."

Wyant's letter also says the DEQ has concluded that Kennecott has met the requirements of Michigan's mining law despite legal challenges.

He adds, "The permits and approvals granted by the DEQ and the Department of Natural Resources have been challenged in administrative appeals and in court, and the decisions have been upheld at every point so far. In conclusion, we believe the Eagle Project mine can be operated without causing harm to the environment, public health, or the tourism industry."*

Wyant's qualifying "so far" may be an acknowledgement of the appeal of a contested case against the DEQ and Kennecott by the groups challenging the mining permit: National Wildlife Federation, Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve. A hearing on the appellants' case is scheduled to come to court on June 9.

According to National Wildlife Federation Attorney Michelle Halley, the only judge "so far" who has heard anything related to the mining permit was actually an employee of the DEQ.

"The fact that the company is moving forward with their activities and representing to hundreds of people that the legal fight is over is disingenuous and a real insult to America's judicial system," Halley said at a recent community forum held by Kennecott in Marquette. **

WAVE has now written this letter to the Governor's Office:

Dear Governor Snyder,

Dan Wyant, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, has responded on your behalf to our letter of March 29, 2011. The letter requested an Executive Order to halt development of the Eagle Mine project and to order the performance of a third party environmental impact study that would encompass all aspects of the project.

We deeply regret your refusal to honor our requests. The Eagle Mine project is flawed: the plan to place the project in riverine area under an important tributary to Lake Superior; Rio Tinto’s record of environmental degradation; the design of the mine; the review process which raises serious questions about the competence and integrity of your Department of Environmental Quality; the disrespect and disregard for the will of the people of our region.

As we pointed out in our letter of March 29, allowing the development of the Eagle mine to continue or not is, quite simply, a question involving life and death choices. Physicians and public health professionals have testified repeatedly that our health and the health of our children is being placed at great risk by the project for generations to come.

Governor Snyder, you have failed to discharge the responsibility of your office to protect the health and well being of the citizens of our state. Your refusal strengthens our resolve to halt the development of the Eagle Mine. If our government will not stand up for us, then we will stand up for ourselves and for the citizens of our region who oppose the mine. We will use all of the means that are legally available to us to stop it.

We hope that one day you will see the light and join us.

Sincerely yours,
WAVE Steering Committee

Editor's Notes:
* Click here to read the rest of Wyant's letter to WAVE.

** Watch for an article on the Kennecott community forum held April 26 in Marquette -- coming soon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Finlandia Art and Design Diploma Works Exhibit to continue through June 11

HANCOCK -- The International School of Art and Design (ISAD) 2011 Diploma Works Exhibition is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery through June 11, 2011. The gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock.

"Desire Path." Hand-spun, hand-knit wire-core yarn. By Audrey Chamberlain. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

A reception for the artists will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the gallery Saturday, April 30, 2011. The artists will be introduced at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The artworks featured in the annual Diploma Works exhibit represent the final body of student work for each graduating bachelor of fine arts (BFA) student. The works include intensive research projects, series of individual artworks, and design prototypes. A variety of media is represented, including painting, illustration, sculpture, fashion design, graphic design, interdisciplinary design, and ceramics.

"The work is diverse and exceptional," said Denise Vandeville, ISAD dean. "I speak for all the ISAD faculty and staff when I say how proud we are of the ISAD Class of 2011."

"Keweenaw National Historic Park" poster series by Jill Codere.

Gallery Director Carrie Flaspohler said she was excited for the community to see the work of these talented graduating seniors.

"The variety of media and techniques highlights the talent of these ISAD students, and the quality of their work is exceptional," Flaspohler noted.

The 2011 ISAD graduating seniors are Jessica Anders (Houghton), Elyse Beebe (Peru, Ind.), Andrew Blake (Chassell), Audrey Chamberlain (Houghton), Jill Codere (Lake Linden), Susanne Danielson (Kingsford), J.R. DeMers (Hancock), Jessica Eichhorn (Wallace), Joshua Jaehnig (Hancock), Kevin Korte (Kennewick, Wash.), Hayley Laban (Houghton), Deanna Makela (Ishpeming), Amanda Moyer (Livonia), Rachel Reidenga (Wetmore), Skyler Ross (Calumet), Jessica Spear (Hancock), Stephanie Trevino (Hubbell), Benjamin Westcott (Iron Mountain), and Abbi Zablocki (Iron Mountain).

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy St., Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment.

Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Video, photos from protests at Rio Tinto AGM in London

LONDON, ENGLAND -- The London Mining Network, a watchdog group on mining activities around the world, has posted a 15-minute video of the protest against mining giant Rio Tinto by activists who came to London from Indonesia, California, Michigan and Utah for the Rio Tinto Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 14, 2011.*

Meg Townsend speaks with Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese, left, and Chairman Jan du Plessis after the April 14, 2011, Rio Tinto AGM, during which she spoke and had just presented du Plessis a petition from 200 doctors protesting the form of mining that will be used in the Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Michigan. Townsend and her family have been fighting this mine all her life. At right is Preston Chiaro, Rio Tinto group executive for technology and innovation. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2011 Sallie Shatz and courtesy Cynthia Pryor. Reprinted with permission.)**

The film includes interviews with these activists -- who state their complaints against the company, why they wanted to attend its AGM and what they achieved by doing so.

Among these activists was Meg Townsend, who works for a prominent New York law firm and who went to London to speak at the AGM about the Eagle Mine near Big Bay, Michigan, and Eagle Rock, the Ojibwa sacred site projected to be the portal for the mine. In the film, Townsend, along with other activists, is interviewed before and after the meeting.*

Outside the Rio Tinto AGM on April 14, 2011, Utah Moms for Clean Air lead a peaceful protest rally against the company. Approximately 150 colorful balloons were popped one at a time, each representing a premature death because of air pollution spewing from the company’s operations in the greater Salt Lake City area. (Photo courtesy London Mining Network)

*Click here to see the 15-minute video of the protest and interviews.

** For more photos by Sallie Shatz of the Rio Tinto AGM in London and the protest by Utah Moms, see

See also our April 17, 2011, article, "Updated: Utah Moms for Clean Air lead protest against Rio Tinto at company's AGM in London."

Old Time Copper Country Dance to benefit Kivajat Dancers Apr. 29 at Brownstone Hall

ATLANTIC MINE -- The Kivajat Dancers will host the Old Time Copper Country Dance from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday evening, April 29, at the Brownstone Hall in Atlantic Mine. Welcome spring by doing a waltz, polka or a bit of swing to the music of the Thimbleberry Band (and Friends).

The Brownstone Hall, with its recently remodeled stage and dance floor, is now a favorite dance venue, thanks to owners Susi and Tim Landers, who have spent months remodeling the building. Here dancers do a lively Finnish schottische during the Pasi Cats' Pikkujoulu (Little Christmas) dance on Dec. 12, 2010. On Friday, April 29, the Old Time Copper Country Dance will offer another opportunity for dancing -- this time to the Thimbleberry Band and Friends. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Admission is just $8 at the door; anyone under 17 is free! There will be refreshments, a silent auction, and a performance at 7 p.m. by the Kivajat Children’s Finnish-American Folk Dance Group. This great event for all ages is a fundraiser for the dancers’ summer travels. Enjoy an evening of dance on a wonderful wooden dance floor in the newly renovated hall. Call 523-6271 for more information.

WAVE to hold public rally Apr. 29 protesting Gov. Snyder's reply to petition

MARQUETTE -- WAVE, a new grassroots environmental coalition, will hold a public rally at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 29, on the steps of the Marquette County Courthouse in Marquette. The rally will feature street theater, music and WAVE’s response to the Governor. The public is invited to attend and encouraged to bring friends, family, signs, noise makers and musical instruments.

WAVE provided the Governor with copies of petitions signed by over 15,000 persons expressing concern about the risks posed by the Rio Tinto - Kennecott Eagle Mine. The petitions were signed by a cross section of Michigan citizens.

The rally is to protest Governor Snyder’s refusal to halt mining giant Rio Tinto’s development of the Eagle Mine project. WAVE requested the Governor to halt the project until an environmental impact study encompassing all aspects of the Eagle Mine Project could be performed, including mining, power, transport and milling of ore, as per Public Law 632.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responded on behalf of the Governor. A letter signed by DEQ Director Dan Wyant stated, "We believe the Eagle Mine can be operated without causing harm to the environment and the tourist industry."

WAVE, in its letter asking for the halt in development of the mine, said, "Allowing the development of the Eagle mine to continue or to close the mine down is, quite simply, a question involving life and death choices. Physicians and public health professionals have testified repeatedly that our health and the health of our children is being placed at great risk by the Eagle mine for generations to come. We think you would agree that we should not compromise the lives of our people for a short term economic gain."

This spring marks the one-year anniversary of the Eagle Rock Encampment protesting the mine. Click here to see the 2010 video by videographer Greg Peterson, with Drew Nelson's song, "Eagle Rock."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Carnegie Museum to host Sooper Yooper Apr. 27

HOUGHTON -- The Sooper Yooper will visit Houghton from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Carnegie Museum in Houghton. This engaging, one-hour interactive program is FREE to all.

Image courtesy Carnegie Museum.

The program tells the story of the Great Lakes, the arrival of exotic species and ongoing efforts to control the aquatic pests in a show-and-tell format. The program ispresented by Mark Newman, author of the book Sooper Yooper: Environmental Defender and chronicles the tale of Billy Cooper, an environmental superhero living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, who does everything in his power to protect the Great Lake from the Top Ten foreign invaders.

Elementary school children and their families will enjoy the program and get an up-close look at a real sea lamprey, zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and other invasive species -- but not Asian carp!

“We’re trying to raise awareness of the potential impact of invasive species on Lake Superior and the Great Lakes," explains Joan Chadde, Education Program Coordinator for the Western UP Center for Science, Math and Environmental Education and stewardship advisor for the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative. "The Sooper Yooper does this in a very fun and creative way!"

The Sooper Yooper program is free and open to all.

"We are happy to host a public showing of Sooper Yooper," adds Elise Nelson, Carnegie museum director. "It’s an opportunity for parents and kids to spend a fun evening learning together!"

The Sooper Yooper is made available at no cost to schools and communities throughout the Midwest with the financial support of the Wege Foundation of Grand Rapids, Mich. The program is sponsored locally by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative (LSSI).

LSSI’s mission is to engage schools and communities in the stewardship of Lake Superior and its watershed. To learn more visit and

The Carnegie Museum is on the corner of Huron and Montezuma in historic Downtwon Houghton. Parking is available in the City lot across Montezuma Street. Admission is free. Don’t miss the fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

At Houghton Town Hall meeting local elected officials attack federal regulation of gas drilling, mining

By Michele Bourdieu

State Sen. Tom Casperson (left, standing) and State Rep. Matt Huuki address a mostly supportive crowd at the April 23 Town Hall meeting held in Michigan Tech’s Isle Royale Ballroom in the Memorial Union. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- The Town Hall meeting with State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) and State Representative Matt Huuki (R-Atlantic Mine) on Saturday, April 23, at Michigan Tech began with a discussion on budget cuts, the need for jobs and tax base, and proposed development of natural resources -- which led to criticism of federal regulation to protect those resources.

Casperson appeared to be sympathetic in his answer to a question by a special education teacher on Medicaid cuts affecting wheel chairs for severely impaired students and people in nursing homes, saying he would be willing to bring a wheel chair up north himself if the issue weren't complicated by the need for it to be fitted to the user.

"I'm going to go to the appropriations chair in the Senate, and I'm going to bring that up with them," he said.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, left, answers a question from the audience at the April 23 Town Hall meeting at Michigan Tech. Casperson and Rep. Matt Huuki, right, took turns answering questions. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Allan Baker)

Huuki said this problem was an example of "the magnitude of the issues we're facing right now" --a $ 1.4 billion deficit. "Surface" arguments over whose piece of the pie gets cut will not solve the problem, he added.

Huuki expressed his concern about the budget cuts, especially to schools.

"We're dealing with major issues with our schools," Huuki said. "Trust me. I've got stomach aches about our schools and what we're facing there."

Huuki noted he had introduced legislation to help Upper Peninsula schools by allowing smaller schools to save money from administration and put it into classroom use.

"We've got to get to the root of our issues, and the root of our issues is the lack of jobs. That is what I've been focusing on," Huuki said. "How are we going to get employment back here to get the tax base back to enable us to have the services that we need here in Michigan?"

A comment from the audience on "all that natural gas under Lake Michigan" was met with some applause from the audience -- and followed by a negative comment about the "green movement."

State Rep. Matt Huuki tells a Houghton audience "the root of the problem" of the state's budget deficit is "jobs." He points out the possibility of drilling for natural gas under the Great Lakes as Canada has done. (Video clip © 2011 and courtesy Allan Baker)

Huuki noted Canada is doing well because they've accessed their natural resources (and possibly ours) by drilling under the Great Lakes. He said we could do this "responsibly" ourselves instead of buying the gas from them. Huuki said we need to "unshackle ourselves" -- apparently a reference to easing environmental regulation -- so that we can access these natural resources.

Casperson noted, aside from the Great Lakes sources, natural gas deposits on state land below the bridge, north of the Gaylord area, could possibly earn the state $100,000,000 a year for the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

"It's our money. It's the people's money," Casperson said.

Neither Casperson nor Huuki nor anyone in the audience brought up the current concern about the hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" method of obtaining natural gas and the dangers it poses to drinking water.

An April 19, 2011, article in the Michigan Messenger notes a recent congressional report that "the nation's 14 leading natural gas drilling service companies used hydraulic fracturing fluids containing 29 different chemicals regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) as potential human carcinogens." The article adds that Michigan auctioned off 120,000 acres of state land for hydrofracking and plans to auction off half a million more acres soon. In addition thousands of acres of private land have been leased to gas companies for this process.*

Neither elected official mentioned specifically how accessing natural gas below the Mackinac Bridge would provide jobs for people above the bridge. Neither one mentioned sustainable jobs or non-fossil-fuel alternative energy potential.

To a question on whether the federal government was preventing natural gas development, Casperson said he didn't know as far as natural gas was concerned, but the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had limited industry's access to other resources.

State Sen. Tom Casperson answers a question on government regulation by attacking efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect wetlands that would be destroyed by the proposed haul road for the Kennecott mine. Casperson did not mention "Kennecott" but his mention of County Road 595 alluded to the mine. (Video clip © 2011 and courtesy Allan Baker)

Casperson referred -- without naming it -- to Rio Tinto-Kennecott's Eagle Mine for nickel and copper when he said the EPA had halted the construction of County Road 595 intended as a haul road for the mine.

"It was EPA who literally stepped in and has halted the project," Casperson said.

He didn't explain to this audience -- or perhaps he meant to oversimplify the issue -- that the EPA and two other federal agencies -- the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission -- had objected to the original Woodland Road (a private Kennecott road) proposed last year. Local Marquette officials then came up with County Road 595, which would be a public road, but intended for Kennecott's haul trucks. Since then, Kennecott is proposing two haul road plans.**

Casperson said the proposed road affected 22 acres of wetlands over a 22-mile stretch of road.

"I personally don't see where that can't be overcome," Casperson said.

He went on to explain that he and Huuki had sent a letter from "the entire Michigan delegation" to U.S. Senator Carl Levin and the U.S. Congressional delegation urging them to tell the EPA not to regulate this (Kennecott) project.

"Senator Levin has been working in his office pretty hard to try and help this project along," Casperson said.

Editor's Notes:

* See the Michigan Messenger Apr. 19, 2011, article, "Congressional probe finds 29 human carcinogens in hydraulic fracturing fluids."

** See Catherine Parker's Feb. 7, 2011, Letter to the Editor, "Road to somewhere" on County Road 595, and accompanying links.

See also the Marquette Mining Journal Feb. 12, 2011, article, "Two-fold approach," on Kennecott's haul road plans.

This is the first in a series of articles with video clips on the topics covered at the Apr. 23 Town Hall meeting.

Update: See the second article in this series, posted May 12, 2011: "EFMs, schools concern residents at April Town Hall with Casperson, Huuki."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Students to compete in Local History Smackdown Apr. 28

CALUMET -- The ninth annual Local History Smackdown will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, 2011, at the Calumet Theatre.

Watch, learn, and keep score as teams of high school students from the four-county area compete for the trophy and show off their local history knowledge. Find out which team can match wits with the quizmaster and come out in first place.

The historic Calumet Theatre is located at 340 Sixth Street in Calumet. This event is part of the "Fourth Thursday in History" series sponsored by Keweenaw National Historical Park. The event is free and open to the public.

Portage Library to host Beekeeping program Apr. 27

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites those who want to learn about the amazing world of honey bees to an evening with local beekeeper Todd Gemelli as he presents "An Introduction to Beekeeping" from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.

His slide show will cover bee hive basics and how honey bees go about their business. Participants will learn what types of equipment a beekeeper uses, how much time it takes to maintain hives, and what the costs and rewards of beekeeping are. There will be a small, empty hive and basic tools of the trade to examine and pure Keweenaw honey to taste.

Gemelli has been a beekeeper for 11 years. He is fascinated by the important role bees have in nature and is eager to share his knowledge and experience with others.

Library programs are free and open to all. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit