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Friday, September 02, 2011

Groups ask Judge to halt mine blasting at Eagle Rock

By Michele Bourdieu with information from Stand for the Land:

MARQUETTE -- This week a coalition of groups asked a judge to halt imminent mining activity that would desecrate a sacred Native American site and jeopardize water quality for the Great Lakes and one of the region’s last spawning grounds for the coaster brook trout.

The Huron Mountain Club, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, National Wildlife Federation and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve filed the motion on Aug. 31, 2011, with the Ingham County Circuit Court to stay Rio Tinto’s permits for the projected Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains. If granted, the stay would prohibit Rio Tinto from blasting Eagle Rock -- a sacred site that sits over this proposed nickel mine.

"My people have prayed and held ceremonies at Eagle Rock since time immemorial," said Susan LaFerniere, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council secretary. "No one should be allowed to blast it apart. I hope the judge grants this request."

LaFerniere told Keweenaw Now recently that the tribe is waiting for the judge's decision on the appeal, since that will determine their next step.

"We've always said that we're not opposed to the mine if it doesn't harm the environment -- and we're still not convinced that it will not harm the environment," she added.

Community and conservation partners have challenged the mine in court, arguing that it presents unacceptable risks to water and air quality -- and that it could collapse, endangering workers and the river it is underneath. The court challenge is currently under appeal. The motion for a stay is necessary because the mining company intends to blast into Eagle Rock on or near September 14, 2011, even though the judge, Paula Manderfield, has not issued a final ruling on the appeal.

"Without this emergency stay, Rio Tinto could begin blasting Eagle Rock before the judge has had a chance to determine whether the mine is safe," said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. "The serious questions we have about this mine need to be addressed -- and allowing the company to blast away in one of Michigan’s most pristine and important areas will only further jeopardize the region’s water quality, tourism industry, wildlife and quality of life."

Extracting nickel from the site poses extreme risks to water quality, wildlife and recreation. The metals are embedded in sulfide ores, which produce sulfuric acid when exposed to moisture and air. The resulting acid mine drainage (AMD) has devastated natural resources in other parts of the country. And the company overseeing the project -- Rio Tinto -- has broken Clean Water Act laws dozens of times in mines they have controlled in other states. published on Sept. 1, 2011, an Associated Press article titled "Foes make final try to stop UP nickel, copper mine," reporting the fact of the requested stay but not giving evidence to justify the word "final" in the headline.

According to Michelle Halley, National Wildlife Federation attorney and Lake Superior Project manager, the groups involved in the contested case appeal could take their case to a higher court.

"If the judge (Manderfield) rules against us we would most likely appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals and ultimately to the Michigan Supreme Court," she said.

Halley noted the hope is that Judge Manderfield will rule in favor of this stay, or injunction, before she makes the overall decision on the appeal.

Other groups and individual concerned citizens have written letters to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on the illegality of the mining permit granted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.*

*Editor's Note: Click here for the Aug. 1, 2011, article and links on Stand for the Land: "Environmental group asks Michigan A.G. to investigate allegations of fraud at DEQ."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

KFRC to hold Kids Consignment Sale Sept. 30-Oct. 1

HOUGHTON -- The Keweenaw Family Resource Center (KFRC) will be holding a fundraising Kids Consignment Sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, at the Copper Country Mall on M-26 in Houghton. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the KFRC Tree House Indoor Playground.

The half-price sale starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Payment must be cash or check only, no credit cards. New Moms and Moms-To-Be can sign up for the First-Time Mom's Club and shop before the sale starts (no strings attached!).

Anyone wishing to be a consignor should register by the deadline -- Friday, Sept. 23. Contact Ivette at 906-523-5295 or email KFRC's current goal is to have 50 consignors.

Items for the sale should be high-quality and gently-used. These can include clothing, gear, sporting goods, toys, equipment, furniture, etc., for all ages, stages and sizes, as well as maternity clothes and accessories, nursing apparel, diaper bags and much more.

Musician Chuck Young to perform at Portage Library Sept. 2

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library invites everyone to bring a lunch and enjoy "Music on the Menu," an outdoor series of events held on the dock outside the library.

Chuck Young will perform from noon to 1 p.m.on Friday, Sept. 2. He sings and plays guitar, mandolin and other folk music instruments. Young started learning these songs and tunes during the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s and never stopped. His music includes bluegrass, old timey, gospel, Scottish, Irish, and Caribbean. He also likes to get the audience to help with choruses on some of the songs.

Everyone is invited to eat, relax, and enjoy the lunch hour while listening to some great music. In the event of bad weather, the program will be held in the community room.

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

Pasi Cats to close final Houghton Summer Concert series TONIGHT, Sept. 1

HOUGHTON -- The final concert of the Houghton Downtown Summer Concert Series will take place at Parking Deck across from Wells Fargo from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Sept. 1.

The musical lineup is as follows:

6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. -- Trio Tumpelot (Anna Gawboy (concertina), Meghan Pachmayer (bass) and Pasi Lautala (accordion and vocals)

6:40 p.m. - 7:20 p.m. -- Agate Pickers (From Corktown, MI, Kenny O'Connor on guitar; from Dodgeville "progress our goal," MI, Mary Kurttu on bass; from Iron River, MI, Spookie Lukie Dedo on drums and Randy Dandy on vox)

7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. -- PasiCats.

Calumet galleries to offer First Friday art exhibits, events Sept. 2

CALUMET -- First Friday, Sept. 2, will offer several art events in Calumet galleries.

Omphale Gallery to present art by Daniel C. Boyer

Omphale Gallery will display a one-man exhibition of drawings and paintings by Daniel C. Boyer in September. The exhibit, titled "The Teenage Girl With Grey Hair," will run through September. A reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.

"The Adjustment to Silence," by Daniel C. Boyer. Gouache diluted with Diet Coke. (Image courtesy Daniel C. Boyer)

The Omphale Gallery recently re-opened with a new café offering espresso drinks and a gourmet lunch menu that is predominantly vegetarian with an emphasis on raw foods -- and lots of home-made bakery items.

Barista and baker Katie Jo Wright, Omphale co-owner with Julie DePaul Johnson (not pictured), serves a gourmet lunch to Laurium residents Patricia and Bernie Koskiniemi on Aug. 20, 2011. Patricia ordered pita bread with a vegan vegetable spread while Bernie's choice was a veggie beet burger. Both ordered the Omphale's special red cabbage slaw. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

The Omphale Gallery Café is at 431 Fifth Street in Calumet.

Ed Gray Gallery to host exhibit by Sharon Schmeltzer

The work of Sharon Schmeltzer of Kingsford, Michigan, will be featured for the month of September at the Ed Gray Gallery in Calumet. An opening reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. Schmeltzer will be available at the reception to answer questions and to describe her work.

Schmeltzer was invited to have a solo show at the gallery after she was selected from a group of artists who entered the annual juried show at the Bonifas Arts Center in Escanaba.

The Ed Gray Gallery is located at 109 Fifth Street, Calumet.

Copper Country Associated Artists to present "You Can Do This" Sept. 2

With a greeting card and a scrap of wool, discover your artist within. Pam Hecht will guide you through this creative process during a First Friday event on Sept. 2 at the Copper Country Associated Artists Gallery, 112 5th Street, Calumet.

The first presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. All materials will be provided. Also bakery and coffee will be served. Donations are appreciated.

Vertin Gallery to host September exhibit by Ingrid Blixt

Vertin Gallery is pleased to announce its September exhibit, Ingrid Blixt’s "Hiding Places," a collection of new graphite drawings and encaustic paintings. Blixt’s work is an ongoing exploration of the common threads connecting people from varying cultural and geographical backgrounds. "Hiding Places" explores the geography of human emotions.

"Hiding places are openings into these inner spaces, sacred spaces and rolling hills," Blixt says.

"White Dress," by Ingrid Blixt. Acrylic on canvas. (Photo courtesy Vertin Gallery)

The Romanian born artist moved to the Escanaba area in 2001, after earning her MFA from the University of Art and Design, Cluj Napoca, Romania.

A reception will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. At 7:15 p.m., the artist will talk about her work, which will remain on display through the month of September.

The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

For more information please call the Vertin Gallery at (906) 337-2200.

Editor's Note: The new Gallerie Bohème will also present a September exhibit on First Friday, Sept. 2. Click here to read about their opening reception with three artists.

Gallerie Bohème to host new exhibit, opening Sept. 2

Artist Tom Rudd, left, and Gallerie Bohème owner Tom Dumble invite the public to the opening of a new exhibit, "Lost and Found," on First Friday, Sept. 2. The show will feature work by three artists: Bonnie Peterson, Cynthia Coté and Margo McCafferty. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

CALUMET -- The public is invited to the opening of a new show in Calumet at Gallerie Bohème from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2.

Margo McCafferty, Toys and Beans (detail). Oil on panel. (Images of art works courtesy Gallerie Bohème)

The exhibit, titled "Lost and Found," will feature artwork by three outstanding visual artists: Bonnie Peterson, embroidered maps; Cynthia Coté, small-format books made with found words and paper; and Margo McCafferty, still lifes of toys and found objects. The artists will be in attendance at the opening to discuss their work with interested viewers and collectors.

Cynthia Coté, Opening Light (detail). Found words and paper.

Gallerie Bohème exhibits exceptional works by Calumet and Keweenaw-area artists and craftspersons. The gallery is located in Calumet on the north end of Fifth Street at 423, near the Omphale Gallery and Café and Artis Books. Business hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through October, and other times by appointment.

Bonnie Peterson, Lake Medora Quad. Mixed media.

For additional information contact Tom Rudd at (906) 369-4087 or Tom Dumble at (760) 285-5128.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Protesters continue White House sit-in against pipeline for tar sands oil

Article and photos by Kate Flynn*

Actress Daryl Hannah addresses an assembled group of protesters near the White House on Tuesday, Aug. 30, the eleventh day of a sit-in against the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that would funnel crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to terminals in the Gulf Coast. Hannah was reportedly one of those arrested during the sit-in. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

WASHINGTON, DC -- Dozens of activists gathered across the street from the White House Tuesday morning to prepare for the eleventh day of protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that would funnel tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to terminals in the Gulf Coast.

"We’re asking the president to do something that is entirely within his power," said Bill McKibben, an environmental author involved in organizing the effort, as he addressed assembled protesters. "All he has to do is not sign this permit and this pipeline can’t be built."

Police have made 706 arrests outside the White House since Aug. 20. Activists and others opposing the pipeline are concerned that carbon emissions from the process of extracting petroleum from the tar sands will contribute to global climate change. They are also concerned about an environmental threat in the form of a pipeline rupture.

"I think that it’s important that we show Obama the seriousness of clean energy and how much we want it now, for our future and for future generations," said Rebecca Ortiz, a student activist from Virginia. "The Keystone XL pipeline is a violation of our right to clean water."

During the Aug. 30 sit-in against the Keystone XL pipeline, at the White House, young activists, from left, Rebecca Ortiz, Emma Peterson, and Nathaly Agosto Filion practice a protest song. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

"We U.S. citizens need and want to be free from this hideously destructive fossil fuel dependence," stated actress Daryl Hannah as she addressed those assembled. "If President Obama rejects the lobbyists’ influences and does the right thing by the citizens, then we will be free so that the money and jobs can go towards safe, clean, regenerative, community-based U.S. energy and fuel."

Hannah is known for her roles in such films as Blade Runner, Splash and Kill Bill. CNN later reported Hannah was arrested during the sit-in.

Many activists saw the struggle as a personal one that would have a direct impact on their quality of life.

"My son," Suzie DeBrosse of Vermont replied when asked what her reason for protesting was. "To get a healthy and clean environment for the next generations."

Suzie DeBrosse of Vermont holds a protest sign depicting her son. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

Ben Gotschall, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Action, organizers of the sit-in, also spoke to the crowd at the protest on Aug. 30.

"Originally that was all it was about -- not in my backyard, not in my drinking water," Gotschall said. "But as I learned more about this…I realized this is something evil that we had to stop."

Tar Sands Action spokesperson Ben Gotschall addresses an assembled group of protesters. (Photo © 2011 and courtesy Kate Flynn)

The protest has already seen solidarity from religious leaders and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, a leading expert on climate change, who was arrested during the protest outside the White House on Monday, Aug. 29.

The New York Times reported that the pipeline is expected to open in 2013 unless delayed by lawsuits or other challenges.

Editor's Notes: Guest reporter Kate Flynn is a graduate student in journalism at American University in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of Hancock High School and Beloit College. Kate also worked as a journalism intern for both Keweenaw Now and the L'Anse Sentinel in 2010.

Visit for more updates on the protest.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tar Sands Action: Largest day of arrests yet at White House Pipeline Protest

A protester is arrested in front of the White House during the peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience against the Keystone XL pipeline destined to carry oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico unless President Obama denies the permit. (Aug. 29, 2011, photo © Josh Lopez and courtesy Tar Sands Action. Reprinted with permission.)

Posted by Tar Sands Action on August 29, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC -- America’s top climate scientist and a large group of religious leaders were arrested at the White House this morning with 140 other Americans protesting to push President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. To date 521 people have been arrested in this protest at the White House.

Representatives of religious groups protest in front of the White House. Several religious leaders were arrested on Monday, Aug. 29. (Photo © Josh Lopez and courtesy Tar Sands Action. Reprinted with permission.)

"If Obama chooses the dirty needle it will confirm that the President was just green-washing all along, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians, with no real intention of solving the addiction," said NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, who was arrested at the White House this morning.

President Obama must decide whether or not to grant a "presidential permit" for a Canadian company, TransCanada, to begin construction of the Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. ...

Click here to read the rest of this press release from Tar Sands Action.

Updated: Protect the Earth 2011, Part 1: Walk to Humboldt mill, Rio Tinto-Kennecott projected ore processing site

By Michele Bourdieu

Members of WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth) and SWUP (Save the Wild UP) and other concerned participants in the 2011 Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering held on Aug. 6, 2011, begin the day with a visit to the proposed site of a processing facility for Rio Tinto / Kennecott's Eagle Mine at the Humboldt mill brownfield location. Click on photos for larger versions. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HUMBOLDT, Mich. -- The 2011 Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering on Aug. 6 began with a walk from Van Riper State Park near Champion, Mich., to the nearby site for a proposed Humboldt processing facility intended for Rio Tinto /Kennecott's projected Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains near Big Bay.

Margaret Comfort, WAVE (Water Action Vital Earth) Steering Committee member and Save the Wild UP Board member, led the walk and introduced speakers Gail Griffith of Save the Wild UP, retired chemistry professor from Northern Michigan University, and Richard Sloat of Iron River, Mich., WAVE Steering Committee member.

As the walk participants gathered near a fence with a large "No Trespassing" sign barring entrance to the Humboldt area (site of a former mill -- a brownfield site still contaminated by iron mine tailings), a small airplane circled above, flew off and returned. A motorcycle also passed by twice. The walkers did not know whether these noise interruptions were intentional or not, but they were disturbing.

Rio Tinto / Kennecott's "No Trespassing" warning sign at the gate of the Humboldt brownfield site, where the company intends to build a processing plant for the nickel and copper ore to be transported from the projected Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains near Big Bay.

Gail Griffith spoke about Rio Tinto / Kennecott's plan to move the ore from the Eagle Mine south to the Humboldt mill for processing.

"The rock here is just going to be down to the size of talcum powder, when they get done with it," Griffith said. "And they do a flotation which floats the metal-rich material to the top."

This nickel and copper material is then floated off in a very concentrated state, she explained. The separate nickel and copper concentrates will be shipped off-site to be smelted. The remainder, a slurry of waste products (tailings), which total more than 95 percent of the rock, will be disposed of in the old Humboldt mine pit, which is presently full of water. When they put the finely ground waste rock into the pit, the water that is displaced has to go somewhere, Griffith explained.

"The water that's coming out of that area is not going to be clean so they're building a wastewater treatment plant to clean the water up before it goes into the middle branch of the Escanaba River (which goes down to Lake Michigan)."*

Since this is now a brownfield site, it has to be cleaned up before being used again. Griffith noted the company is already taking loads of material from the site to the Marquette County Landfill. She speaks about this and the proposed wastewater treatment in the video clip below.

At the Humboldt brownfield site, Gail Griffith of Save the Wild UP, who serves on the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority, speaks about loads of waste material Rio Tinto / Kennecott has been dumping in the landfill and answers questions from some of the Humboldt walk participants. A plane can be heard circling overhead. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Kristi Mills of Save the Wild UP noted a Kennecott report indicates 26 known contaminants that are now migrating away from this Humboldt site.

"It's a report that Kennecott did on the site because when they took it over they wanted to know exactly what was here so they wouldn't be liable for it," Mills said.

Kennecott said they are doing their best to remove "the worst of it" -- the contamination from the tailings left by the old Humboldt iron mine -- spending $1.5 million to "remediate" it before they begin their own work here, Mills added.

Richard Sloat spoke about treatment of water coming from the Buck Mine -- one of more than 70 abandoned iron mines in Iron County. Sloat's concerns stem from the fact that the Buck Mine, even though it was an iron mine, was located in an ore body with high sulfide concentration and the fact that the Buck Mine is the farthest downstream along the Iron River.

Richard Sloat of Iron River, Mich., WAVE Steering Committee member, speaks about wastewater treatment at the Buck Mine in Iron County. (Video by Allan Baker for
Keweenaw Now)

Sloat said he would like to see better, more frequent monitoring of the water coming from sites like the Buck Mine, the proposed Eagle Mine (if it goes through) and this Humboldt site.

"Concentrations of contaminants can rise and fall during certain times of the day -- sometimes as much as 500 percent difference from testing at one part of the day," Sloat said.

He said he has hired an environmental consulting firm to do some water testing twice a day and to give the results to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Sloat also spoke about the dredging of sediment that is part of the cleanup. In 2008, dredging of over 17,000 tons of sediment from the Buck Mine cost Michigan taxpayers over $1 million, he noted. As for the projected Eagle Mine, if it goes through, Kennecott has admitted a large amount of contaminated sediment will have to be hauled to landfills.

"I think we just have to start changing our lifestyles," Sloat said. "Every one of us contributes to why there's mining. We just have to change that."

To conclude the meeting at the Humboldt site, Pamela St. Germaine offers a musical blessing to the site. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

The route Kennecott will use to truck chunks of ore to the Humboldt site has been a subject of discussion at Marquette County Road Commission meetings and hearings during the past year. At present they plan to use County Road 550 unless they can receive permits for the potential County Road 595, a north/south road for which the Road Commission will be holding information meetings from noon to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, at Lakeview Arena in Marquette and Wednesday, Aug. 31, at the Ishpeming Township Hall.**

This route is a variation on the proposed "Woodland Road," which failed to receive federal permits because of potential impacts on wetlands, streams and wildlife in the area.***

Update: The Humboldt Mill was originally a mill for iron ore from the Humboldt mine; later it was used to process gold ore from the Ropes gold mine.

Editor's Notes: This article is the first in a series on the 2011 Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering. Watch for more articles, coming soon.

Update: The Humboldt Mill was originally a mill for iron ore from the Humboldt mine; later it was used to process gold ore from the Ropes gold mine.

* This wastewater treatment plant would be built in addition to the one that is being built at Rio Tinto / Kennecott's projected Eagle Mine site. See our May 3, 2011, article, "Residents concerned about water quality question Rio Tinto-Kennecott at community forum."

** Click here for details on these meetings and dates for consideration of public comments.

*** Click here to read a Letter to the Editor, "Road to Somewhere," by Catherine Parker, with links to other articles concerning this proposed road.