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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Updated: Keweenaw Now tours Rio Tinto Eagle Mine water treatment plant

By Michele Bourdieu

Kristen Mariuzza, right, Rio Tinto Eagle Project environmental and permitting manager for technology and innovation, and Dan Blondeau, center, Rio Tinto advisor in communications and media relations, field questions from Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., as they explain steps in the water treatment system of the Eagle Mine. In the background is the  Degassifier, used to remove carbon dioxide from the water being treated. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HANCOCK -- About a year ago, Keweenaw Now reported on Rio Tinto-Kennecott's public forum in Marquette, during which their representatives introduced the company's new water treatment facility for the Eagle Mine near Big Bay, where they plan to mine for copper and nickel in an ore body under the Salmon Trout River. At that forum concerned citizens expressed many concerns about the water and how the company planned to prevent acid mine drainage from contaminating the rivers and streams of the Yellow Dog Plains -- and ultimately Lake Superior. Some questions were answered, some not.*

Thus, when Dan Blondeau, advisor in communications and media relations for Rio Tinto, recently invited Keweenaw Now to take a tour of the Eagle Mine, now that the water treatment facility is in operation as the mine tunnel is being constructed, I decided this would be a good opportunity to learn how it works and to what extent it protects the water. Botanist Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., accompanied me on this private tour on July 16, 2012. We both asked questions of Blondeau and Kristen Mariuzza, Eagle Project environmental and permitting manager for technology and innovation, who is also a Michigan Tech University graduate in environmental engineering.

The tour began outside the plant within view of the two large contact basins, together holding 11.5 million gallons of water.

This photo shows parts of the two contact basins and the paved contact area from which they collect water to be treated in the plant. In the background is the portal to the mine, through a decline tunnel being drilled under Eagle Rock, the tree-covered outcrop at the left.

"All of the water from the contact area  will flow into these basins, and then all that water is treated through our water treatment plant," Mariuzza said. "Anything that leaves the contact area has to get washed before it leaves. So equipment that operates underground can drive on the contact area, but before it leaves the paved contact area it has to be washed through our truck wash. Water from the truck wash goes into the contact basins."

Mariuzza said the majority of the water they treat is storm water. The basins collect snow melt, any rain that falls on the site, water from the underground and water from the rock storage pad. Effluent from the water treatment plant is sampled monthly, she explained. This depends on how often the company is running the plant.

Garske asked Mariuzza whether dewatering the mine would lower the water table and the Salmon Trout River, because the water table reaches the surface in the river and the wetlands around the river.

View of the Salmon Trout River. Rio Tinto-Kennecott is drilling toward an ore body of copper and nickel located under this trout stream. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

Mariuzza said there are two separate (unconnected) aquifers with a confining layer in between them.

"Seepage into the mine is not expected to have any effect on the overlying water resources," Mariuzza said. "The bedrock in the area of the underground mine workings has a very low permeability; therefore it is not a direct channel to the overlying aquifers and wetlands." 

Blondeau noted the contact area at the mine site is sloped so that all water in the contact area flows to the contact basins.

"The 'non-contact' water basins are located outside of the contact area," he added. "Therefore, they do not come into contact with mining related activities. They collect storm water (rain and snow) at three locations within the mine site."

Water will flow to these non-contact basins and be naturally reabsorbed into the ground.**

To a question on the test wells, Mariuzza replied they are all permit required wells. The groundwater wells are sampled quarterly.

"We even have wells off-site that we sample," Mariuzza added.

Blondeau described the water treatment plant as "the heart of the site."

"The whole site is designed to treat water," he said.

Inside the plant, Blondeau and Mariuzza showed us each step in the water treatment process.

First, when the mine wastewater comes into the plant to be treated, if petroleum has been detected in the water before it reaches the water treatment plant, it goes through a Nutshell Filter, which is actually made of crushed nut shells. This removes oil from the wastewater.

Next is the Degassifier, which is used to remove carbon dioxide from the water being treated (photo above). The process is similar to the way carbon dioxide escapes from a bottle of soda when you open it.

A breakpoint chlorinator removes ammonia from the water only when the ammonia is high.

The Multiflo Clarifier  removes scale-forming constituents such as calcium and magnesium from the water.

The Multiflo Clarifier removes such constituents as calcium and magnesium from the mine water.

"Basically it slows down the water flowing through the plant," Blondeau explained.

He said a coagulant creates bigger chunks so it settles solid metals.

The clean water, from the tank pictured here in the background, goes to the Multi Media Filters, and the waste stream (in the tank in the foreground), goes to the Filter Press.

Next, the solids filtered out of the water are tested and the results are sent to a landfill.

This area is referred to as the 'Filter Cake Disposal' bin. The material is tested, results are given to the Marquette County Landfill (MCLF), and the MCLF determines if the contents can be placed in the landfill. If the contents do not meet the requirements of the MCLF the contents are sent to a facility that accepts the material.

"The MCLF (Marquette County Landfill) has already accepted material from our operations," Blondeau said. "If they decide not to accept them, the test results are sent to a facility that will accept the material. Should they be considered hazardous waste, they would have to be sent farther away (possibly to Detroit or Wisconsin) to a hazardous waste facility."

Mariuzza added, "We don't expect that this will ever come up as a hazardous waste product."

Once the larger solids are removed, multimedia filters (made of different materials) help remove any suspended solids that haven't settled yet, Blondeau explained.

The next step is the Sodium Zeolite Ion Exchange, which removes hardness from the mine water.

This photo shows the Sodium Zeolite Ion Exchange filters. Only two are ever operating at one time. The third unit is on standby; for example, in the event of maintenance the system continues to operate. (Photo © and courtesy Rio Tinto)

In his right hand, Blondeau is holding the contents of a Multi Media Filter and in his left he is holding the contents of the Sodium Zeolite Ion Exchange filter. These contents are placed in the clear containers so that people can see what is inside each filter. The Multimedia filters help remove suspended solids from the water similar to the way a coffee filter removes coffee grounds. The Sodium Zeolite filters remove hardness from the water similar to household water softeners.

Finally, the Reverse Osmosis process (RO) helps purify and treat the water so that it can be reused and recycled. It is similar to the technology used in bottled water.

"We go through the reverse osmosis process two times," Mariuzza said.

This Reverse Osmosis system removes ions from water that has already gone through the previous steps. (Photo © and courtesy Rio Tinto)

"The less you have to pull through these filters the better," she noted. "It's like a screen, but the mesh is so small it removes ions. You can't even see the holes in the filter."

A pump pushes water through the small holes creating pressure -- 500 pounds per square inch (psi) on the first pass and 200 psi on the second, Mariuzza explained.

"Our product water is what gets discharged," she said.

Reverse osmosis also removes mercury present in rainwater in order to meet standards. The pH of the product water is close to neutral. If for any reason it is above or below the standard, the water is taken through the whole process again, Mariuzza added.

Because of a recent spill of hydrochloric acid at the plant, we asked what it was used for.

"One of the things we use hydrochloric acid for is to adjust the pH," Mariuzza said.

Both Blondeau and Mariuzza confirmed the acid spill was in a contained area and under control.

The Yellowdog Watershed Preserve (YDWP), on their Web site, expressed concern about the spill even though the company said they were not overly concerned about potential environmental damage.

"While the mining company considered this a 'relatively small' spill, hydrochloric acid is a strong, highly corrosive acid which can be very harmful to human tissue," the YDWP article stated. "YDWP will continue to keep an eye on the situation and be a leading force in monitoring our local resources to ensure our community is protected."

Following the Reverse Osmosis, an evaporator is used to remove the liquid fraction from the liquid waste, and the water vapor is condensed and mixed back into the treated reverse osmosis water. The Crystallizer removes salts that are tested and sent to a landfill that accepts waste.

In this photo the Evaporator is on the right and the Crystallizer is center/left of the two white pipes.

Mariuzza said the product water is sampled before it goes to the discharge -- a Treated Water Infiltration System (TWIS). The process is similar to a drainfield. It goes through perforated pipes into the groundwater, and test wells sample it.

Next we rode in the Rio Tinto vehicle to see the Temporary Development Rock Storage Area. Development rock is waste rock from the decline tunnel and does not contain nickel and copper ore.

This storage facility is for development rock, which is all rock removed from the underground that is not considered ore. The facility features a multi-layered liner, leak detection system and sump pump to collect water which will be treated by the water treatment plant. It is considered environmentally secure. All development rock will be returned underground as fill.

We asked if we could ride closer to the portal for a photo of the decline tunnel now being drilled under the outcrop known as Eagle Rock in order to access the ore body.

The decline tunnel is 18 feet in diameter and descends under Eagle Rock at a 13 percent grade (Every 100 feet it drops 13 feet).

This closer view of the decline tunnel shows the orange part of a pipe going underground and pulling clean air into the tunnel. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Garske)

According to a recent L'Anse Sentinel article about a July 25, 2012, Rio Tinto community forum in L'Anse, the company said the tunnel is to be a mile long and is now 70 per cent complete.

Local residents seek air quality monitoring

Big Bay residents recently complained about diesel fumes and a filter being removed from the exhaust of the tunnel. They are seeking an independent air monitoring program for the region. Carla Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay expressed these concerns at Rio Tinto's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in London, England, last April. In May,  Powell Township passed a resolution stating, "in response to Citizen’s concerns, we the Powell Township Board do ask that the Environmental Protection Agency and or the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality develop an Air Quality Monitoring program in our region, with monitors installed at present and future mine sites, within the community of Big Bay, and at any other sites in Powell Township that these agencies deem appropriate."***

Both Mariuzza and Blondeau said they have never smelled diesel in the tunnel.

"We have refined the design of the mine, and we have identified measures and systems that can reduce overall air emission impacts from the site," Blondeau said. "MDEQ
(Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) requires a new permit application to be filed if there is a change in quality, nature or quantity impact of emissions. In accordance, we filed the new air permit in March of this year. The revised permit does not include a baghouse filtering system. A baghouse would not work properly because expected emissions will be so low that the filter would not work properly. Baghouse filter manufacturers have advised us that their products are not designed for emissions as low as ours. We are working with Superior Watershed Partnership on a community monitoring program. A portion of the monitoring will directly address air."

Blondeau also commented on the fence around Eagle Rock, which the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) people consider a sacred site.

This photo shows the outcrop, Eagle Rock, which is surrounded by a fence. The decline tunnel being blasted to access the ore body is at right. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Garske)

"Activities prohibited in our lease include, 'Clearing of, or mining operation activities on the rock outcrop,'" Blondeau noted. "We are not allowed to remove any trees or vegetation from the area inside the fence."

He said the fence is several meters out from what is defined as the rock outcrop.

"When members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) visit the rock we do not go up on the rock with them unless they invite us up," he added.

Native Americans visit Eagle Rock

Although two Native Americans were arrested when the fence went up in 2010, Native people are allowed to visit Eagle Rock for spiritual ceremonies.

Two Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) members who visited Eagle Rock recently -- Charlotte Loonsfoot and Jessica Koski -- shared their impressions with Keweenaw Now.

"Native People are not allowed to hold our ceremonies as we desire to at Eagle Rock," Loonsfoot said. "If we were able to stay about four nights and four days, then we would be able to do our Ceremonies, but they tell us we have to leave every night which is not allowed in our way. I hope someday this may change as we really need to help our spirits heal from all the pain and turmoil Kennecott/Rio Tinto has imposed on us."

Koski said she has visited Eagle Rock twice since the fence was put up around it in 2010 -- once shortly after "the arrest of two fellow tribal members who were honorably defending our sacred place, lands and waters from the disruptive intrusion of a foreign extractive mining company on our traditional Anishinaabe lands."

Her second visit was on July 20, 2012, when she took a small group of KBIC high school students to the Yellow Dog Plains.

"We gathered lots of wild raspberries and saw traditional trail marker trees of ancestors. We visited and drank from some of the freshwater springs there that help feed the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River. It was the most clean, cool, refreshing water I have ever tasted," Koski said. "Unfortunately, these springs are hydrologically connected to an aquifer that is to be injected with at least 20,000 gallons per day of partially treated waste water from the Eagle sulfide mining project."

Koski said that for her and the students it was not a mine tour, but a visit to a sacred place.

"Imagine, you are going to Church, but before you go you have to get permission from a company who is doing heavy construction all around and beneath. You are not sure whether it is a completely safe place to visit as you can smell chemicals and explosives lingering in the air, but it is your Church where your family has gone for many generations, so you can't just move to a new Church. Then image that you are escorted to a guard office, read liability legal language, and asked to put on a corporate hard hat, safety goggles and florescent vest. Then, you are not free to proceed on your own to your Church. A company official, or two, have to walk you to your Church. Then, as you finally reach the Church, the company official 'allows' you to go in, but stands and observes nearby. Just as you are about to proceed, you hear and feel blasting and rumbles beneath your feet." ****

Mine tour impresses; concerns about water remain

Garske said he found our tour interesting and the guides effective in doing their job.

"My overall impression of the tour was that our guides were intent on convincing us that everything was going well and according to plan, that the company was doing everything they can to see that the water would not be contaminated, that the rock would be protected, and that everything would be just fine," Garske said. "That's their job and they were working fairly hard at it."

However, he added he still has some concerns about the water and the Salmon Trout River.

"From what I've seen and heard, the hydrology of this whole area is extremely complex," Garske said.

He said he was also wondering how the company could keep water from the river from percolating (or gushing, if the mine collapses) into the mine, thus lowering the water table and the river.

"I am also concerned (as many others have been from day one) about potential leaching of acid and metals from the mine," Garske added. "Can this leachate be prevented from entering the groundwater and eventually making its way underground, north to the springs and streams that flow into Lake Superior?"

Mining expert Jack Parker, who has expressed concern about a possible collapse of the mine based on the plans in Kennecott's mining permit application, toured the mine in October 2011 with Michigan Tech professor Stanley Vitton, shortly after the blasting in the portal began. While Parker did not tour the water treatment plant, his overall impression was that Rio Tinto-Kennecott was trying to do everything right.

"My unanswered questions are related more to the application -- are the data in the mine design and planning the only departures from reality?" Parker writes. "So in Water Treatment I truly question the projected water quantities and chemistry. RT (Rio Tinto) is relying on figures in the application. Nobody here on Earth can vouch for future climate.   I wonder how often we will experience 100-year floods …"

Parker commented favorably on the mining equipment he saw.

"We saw the mining equipment -- all first-class," Parker notes. "An electric/hydraulic face-drilling jumbo, computer controlled, costs $1,250,000, as did the backup machine.  The underground haulage trucks carry 50 tons. Highway trucks will actually carry 50 tons in two 'bins' on two trailers, with one prime mover."

These are the mine haulage vehicles that go underground.

Parker also entered the decline tunnel and was impressed by the safety features and precautions.

After mine closure, Blondeau said, the water treatment plant must remain on the site at least five years as part of the 20-year post-closure monitoring.

"If for some reason we still need it after five years, we would leave it up," he said. "After closure everything has to be taken out (buildings, concrete, etc.)."

The mine will be backfilled as they drill upwards. Primary stopes will be backfilled with cemented rock, and secondary stopes will be backfilled without cement, Blondeau explained.

"It's really a very small, concentrated ore body," Blondeau said.

Although the original application said the ore would be hauled to a railhead near Marquette, it is now to be hauled to a mill at Humboldt.

"The DEQ doesn't have jurisdiction on the route," Blondeau explained. "Our permit doesn't specify the route we have to take." *****

The Eagle Mine project now employs more than 60 percent local employees, Blondeau said. At the time of this tour the total number was 90 employees of whom 61 were local.

"Again, this includes Kristen and me," he added. "I was born and raised here. I have the utmost confidence in our people (RT). ... If I didn't think they were doing everything right I wouldn't work here."

Mariuzza, also a local resident, said she worked for the Michigan DEQ for 10 years, then took three years off to stay home with her young children before accepting the position with Rio Tinto.

"I think we have a great environmental program and monitoring program," she said.

Keweenaw Now asked Blondeau about Rio Tinto's current exploration activities at various sites in the region.

"We continue to explore the central and western UP, but we haven't found any mineralization yet," Blondeau replied.


* See our May 3, 2011, article, "Updated: Residents concerned about water quality question Rio Tinto-Kennecott at community forum."

** See Rio Tinto's Web site for overview photos and a site legend.

*** See our May 23, 2012, article, "Updated: Big Bay residents report on Rio Tinto AGM in London."

**** Jessica Koski recently posted these comments on Facebook. UPDATE: Click here to read Koski's complete article, "Political Ecology in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: A Sacred Place or Mine Portal?" posted Aug. 8, 2012, on Stand for the Land.

***** Rio Tinto is presently considering the proposed County Road 595 as a haul route to the mill at Humboldt, but federal agencies have concerns about potential environmental impacts if this road is built. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is considering issuing a wetlands fill permit to the Marquette County Road Commission under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Sections 301 and 303 of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act for the proposed County Road 595. According to MCRC's permit application, construction would affect 25.81 acres of wetlands and require building 22 stream crossings. The Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns about the wetland and stream impacts and will hold an informational public meeting at 6 p.m. followed by a formal public hearing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Northern Michigan University's Don H. Bottum University Center Ontario/Michigan/Huron Rooms, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., Marquette. Click here for details.

Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve to hold Annual Meeting, hike, potluck TODAY, Aug. 4

BIG BAY -- The 17th Annual Meeting of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (YDWP) is being held TODAY, Aug. 4, at their newest land acquisition near the McCormick Wilderness Area. YDWP purchased 40 acres last fall in order to protect the fragile ecosystems of the watershed and ensure access is preserved to the McCormick Wilderness Area. Members and non-members are invited. Here is a schedule of events:

2:30 p.m.: Board Meeting with Board elections. This year, there are three seats up for vote: chairman and two directors.
4 p.m.: Hike into the McCormick Wilderness Area. Members will lead a hike to the west branch of the Yellow Dog River, where you can see amazing waterfalls. Wear good hiking shoes/boots and bring water.
6 p.m.: Potluck and Social. Bring a dish to pass and enjoy the campfire and surrounding forest. Bring your instruments for an impromptu jam session!

Directions to the Annual Meeting: Starting in Marquette, turn left onto County Road 550. Continue for 28 miles until you see the intersection of County Road 510. Turn left onto County Road 510. Continue for about 3.5 miles. Turn right onto County Road AAA. Continue for about 14.5 miles. The road will then intersect with the Ford Road. Stay straight and the road will begin to veer right. Follow the signs to YDWP’s Annual Meeting.

For more information call 906-345-9223 or email or visit the YDWP Web site.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Calumet Art Center to host New Chamber Music Concert Aug. 3

 Christine Seitz, left, Sylvia Ensminger and Paul Seitz perform during the 2011 Chamber Music Concert at the Calumet Art Center. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

CALUMET --The Calumet Art Center will host a New Chamber Music Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3.

This year's concert will feature some of the composers and performing artists from last year as well as some new additions.  Returning performers include Sylvia Ensminger, violin; Paul Seitz, viola; Pat Quimby, cello; Tom Bjoraker, percussion; Bryan Suits, flute; Robyn Johnson, clarinet; Jon Enseminger, piano; Christine Seitz, soprano; and John Peiffer, horn and baritone voice.

Joining these returning performers will be Janis Shier Peterson and Michael Adler, violins, and Alexandra Signor, trumpet. Janis is well known as an outstanding music educator in Marquette, conductor of the Blue Lake International Youth Orchestra and concert master of the Marquette Symphony. Michael Adler is a student in Physics and Applied Computational Mathematics at Michigan Tech and is active in the Keweenaw and Marquette symphonies and other musical activities. Michigan native and Northern Michigan University alum Alexandra (Lexie) Signor is a member of the University of Missouri Faculty Brass Quintet and co-lead trumpet for the MU Concert Jazz Band.

The program will include music by the following composers: Paul Seitz, Nathan Barber, Thomas Bjoraker, Brandon Nelson, Robert Suits, and John Peiffer.

Admission to the event is $8. Click here for the tentative program and a slide show of last year's concert.

Copper Country Associated Artists to offer free First Friday sketching class

CALUMET -- This First Friday in Calumet, Copper Country Associated Artists will feature a sketching class by Nancy McCabe, experienced artist and teacher. Nancy is going to teach various pencil and paper sketching techniques such as contour drawing.

Participants can drop in to learn anytime between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3. The class is free and open to the public. The CCAA gallery is at 205 Fifth St. in Calumet, and is open for the summer from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Ziyad and Co. art gallery to exhibit new work by Jack Oyler

CALUMET -- All new work from Jack Oyler will be featured in the August show at the Ziyad and Co. art gallery, formerly the Ed  Gray Gallery, in Calumet. An artist's reception will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on First Friday, Aug. 3, at 109 Fifth Street, Calumet.

"Heiresses," by Jack Oyler. (Photo courtesy Ziyad and Co.)

Jack is a local favorite whose work touches the whimsy in all of us.  He has drawn his inspiration for this show from poetry, from images in his own life, from birdwatching, and from music. Jack's work is autobiographical and comes from his quirky interpretation of life. This interpretation is what makes his work both imaginative and endearing.

Gallerie Bohème to host exhibit by two artists opening Aug. 3

CALUMET -- Gallerie Bohème, 426 Fifth Street, Calumet, is pleased to announce an exhibition of new and innovative works by two outstanding professional artists.

Kenneth M. Thompson of Adrian, Mich., will be showing small scale bronze sculptures from his series, "Castles for the New Economy." Thompson describes these works as depictions of possible conclusions to the current housing and economy problems.

Margo McCafferty of Calumet, Mich., will be exhibiting mixed medium paintings from her series, "Notes from a Circuitous Route," with works inspired by her blog devoted to experimental writing.

The show will run from Aug. 3 to Aug. 31, 2012. The public is invited to view the work and meet the artists at an opening reception from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on First Friday, Aug. 3, at the gallery.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Portage Library to host three family events Aug. 3

Gromit the Trail Dog gets special attention from Anna Gawboy of Trio Tumpelot during last week's "Music on the Menu" at Portage Library. Gromit liked it so much she will return to the library this Friday, Aug. 3, to help her owner Arlyn Aronson teach a dog training class for kids. Also pictured are Trio Tumpelot's Pasi Lautala (second from left) and Meghan Pachmayer. (Photos © and courtesy Arlyn and Sandy Aronson)

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host three events on Friday, Aug.3 -- "Music on the Menu" with Trio Bibliothèque; "Dog Gone," a dog training class with Arlyn Aronson and Gromit the Trail Dog; and Cirque da UP, unicycling acrobatic jugglers.

Trio Bibliothèque returns to "Music on the Menu"

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.

"Trio Bibliotheque" returns for another wonderful performance from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3. Libby Meyer on fiddle, Anna Gawboy on concertina, and Oren Tikkanen on guitar will play a lively and eclectic mix of folk music and other genres.

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.

This event is part of the library’s Summer Reading Program and is free and open to all. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

"Dog Gone" dog training course for kids with Gromit the Trail Dog

Gromit the Trail Dog cools off in Swedetown Creek during a bike trip to Churning Rapids in Hancock. See more photos of Gromit on her blog.

The Portage Lake District Library will host a dog training class for kids from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3.

Arlyn Aronson will present "Dog Gone!" and show kids why it’s important for puppies and dogs to listen to their owners. Kids will learn basic but important dog training tips that apply to all pet owners and all dog breeds. Aronson’s dog Gromit, who loves to do as she is told, will be on hand to demonstrate why she listens and why it’s good for her and all dogs to be trained. Gromit likes big people, too, so it’s okay if they come to the program and learn as well.

You can see Gromit on her blog: For questions about the class, you may email Aronson at or call 370-2911.

Library programs are free and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Unicycling acrobatic jugglers return to Portage Library

The Portage Lake District Library will host the area’s increasingly more famous and dearly loved unicycling acrobatic jugglers for a performance at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3. The show will be held outside the library.

Cirque da UP features athlete-artists who give people a unique style of entertainment featuring a combination of world-class juggling, unicycling, and acrobatics in a family-friendly, interactive show.

MTU alumni Bob and Trish Evans will perform their new acrobalance routine with some surprise new stunts. They will also demonstrate joggling, which is running while juggling and is a sport in which they have earned several Guinness world records for their speedy times.

The Evans will also talk about their upcoming attempt to raise $20,000 for Special Olympics by completing a triathlon while juggling the entire time.

Everyone is invited to watch as they perform their amazing and gravity defying feats. After the show, the performers will help people learn how to juggle, spin a plate on a stick, and other fun circus skills.

This event is free and open to all. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

KBIC Mining Updates

By Jessica Koski

BARAGA -- Jessica Koski, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Mining Technical Assistant, shares her recent article, "Mining Updates," with Keweenaw Now. This article also appears in the KBIC August 2012 Newsletter. It is reprinted here with permission.

Orvana Copperwood Project

On April 30, 2012, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved a mining permit for the Copperwood Project near Wakefield and the Porcupine Mountain State Wilderness Area. On July 17, 2012, the DEQ also approved an air permit for the project. The mining permit is not effective until all other required permits are issued -- including permits for water discharges, wetlands impact and stream fill.

On July 8th, the KBIC mining technical review team submitted comments on proposed permits for wetland and stream fill. We found the company to significantly fall short of avoiding and minimizing negative impacts as required by law.*

Map of the proposed Orvana mine, from their permit application. Click on map for larger version. (Map courtesy Jessica Koski)

A primary concern is the proposed tailings disposal facility (TDF), the purple area on the Copperwood Project map (see above). Tailings are the waste materials left over after ore processing. The TDF would fill in approximately 52 acres of wetlands and 13,672 feet of streams. It is predicted to release between 24-62 million gallons of leachate (water that moves through the tailings and transports contaminates) into the environment per year. The leachate is expected to contain sulfate, arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, mercury, selenium, and zinc. Once mining ends and the water treatment facility is shut off, these heavy metals and other contaminants would migrate untreated into soils and creeks to nearby Lake Superior.**

Rio Tinto Mining Activities

Kennecott (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) continues sulfide mine construction of the Eagle Project about 23 miles east of the L’Anse Reservation on 1842 Treaty territory. An underground portal tunnel into Migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock) has been drilled and blasted over 2100 feet towards the ore body under the Salmon Trout River of Lake Superior. The company hopes to start production in July 2013 and begin full production in 2014 with expectations to mine for 5-8 years.
On July 7, 2012, an incident occurred at the mine site in which about 100 gallons of hydrochloric acid (a chemical used in the waste water treatment process) spilled inside a storage area and was subsequently cleaned up. The company said a faulty valve caused a container to leak the chemical. Exposure to hydrochloric acid can have a corrosive effect on human tissue, with the potential to damage respiratory organs, eyes, skin, and intestines. No injuries were reported.

On the legal front, the KBIC and its coalition partners are awaiting a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals whether or not they will hear legal challenges to the state’s issuance of mining and groundwater discharge permits for the project. In the meantime, the Huron Mountain Club, consisting of 250 members who own 19,000 acres near the site, filed a federal lawsuit to halt construction of the mine, stating that the company did not obtain necessary federal permits. A hearing took place on June 6, 2012, and a decision has not been issued yet.***

On April 23, 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a federal objection under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to proposed County Road 595, which would serve as a mining haul road for Kennecott’s Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill. A DEQ permit decision deadline for the road has been postponed until October 1, 2012. If the state issues a permit without EPA approval, the applicant would have to seek a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Exploration in the Ottawa National Forest

Substantial exploration has occurred in the western Ottawa National Forest for sulfide mineral ores and uranium. Currently, Trans Superior Resources (a subsidiary of Canadian-based Bitterroot Resources) is applying to conduct exploration for sulfide deposits in Ontonagon County. Since 1996, the company has been permitted to explore at least four other times. The company proposes to drill 15 sites to look for gold, platinum, nickel, and cobalt.****

In addition, the state of Michigan owns many acres of minerals rights within the National Forest and is working to lease some of them out for exploration. Some of the leases are located about three miles southeast of Kenton and surround nearby segments of the traditional L’Anse-Lac Vieux Desert Trail corridor.

The U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies have a trust responsibility to meaningfully consult and consider tribal interests, including rights reserved in treaties, before they make decisions that impact tribes. Permitting the exploration of sulfide ore bodies poses human health and environmental risk more so than less reactive ore bodies. Potential effects of mineral exploration to consider include:
  • Escape of deep brines to surface waters (underground water containing a lot of salt, common in the western U.P.);
  • Cross contamination of aquifers;
  • Sump pits can consist of waste water, oils and grease, and metal sulfides or uranium from the drill cuttings. Sump water may attract wildlife and is usually left on site with shallow burial;
  • Storm water runoff, wetlands impact, water usage, and fuel storage;
  • Enforcement of stipulations to prevent drilling in close proximity to surface waters;
  • Cumulative, total added, impacts of numerous exploration sites in an area.
Back Forty Project

The prospective Back Forty sulfide gold-zinc-copper project along the Menominee River near Stephenson has been suspended, at least temporarily.

HudBay, who had a 51 percent interest in the project, recently announced an end to its joint venture with Aquila Resources. Aquila Resources, a Canadian company, is exploring for gold at several other sites in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Save the Date: The Lake Superior Binational Forum is hosting a Public Meeting on the Impacts of Mining in the Lake Superior Basin from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette. To listen to speeches and see presentations from the previous meeting in Ashland, WI, visit:


* Click here to read the comments on Stand for the Land.

** See Keweenaw Now's two articles on the June 28, 2012, DEQ hearing on the Orvana Mine: Part 1: Questions and Part 2: Public Hearing.

*** Update: A July 26, 2012, article in the Marquette Mining Journal, by Associated Press writer John Flesher, states, "In an order signed Wednesday (July 25), Judge Robert Holmes Bell rejected a request by the private Huron Mountain Club to stop work on the mine while the club’s lawsuit works its way to trial."

**** Click here for more information on this proposal.

Click here for the August 2012 KBIC Newsletter. This article appears on p. 8.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Michigan LCV: Benishek named to "Flat Earth Five"

From Michigan League of Conservation Voters
Political Week in Review: July 24-30
Posted July 30, 2012

Michigan's First District U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek  (R-Crystal Falls) made national headlines this week, and not in a way he’d like. The national League of Conservation Voters named him to the "Flat Earth Five," a group of politicians who inexplicably still reject the scientific consensus of climate change and, as a result, have a big electoral target on their backs. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) has committed $1.5 million to show that denying science is not only bad policy, but bad politics, too.

As record temperatures burst thermometers across the country, cherry crops are ruined, senior citizens die due to heat strokes, and farmers require bailouts for their parched fields, it's imperative that our elected officials at least acknowledge the problem if we're ever going to solve it (or at least slow it!).

Click here to read more on Michigan LCV's Political Week in Review.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Portage Library to host Stamp Collecting, Isle Royale Nature Program this week

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library announces two events for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week:

Stamp Collecting Group to meet at Portage Library July 31

The Portage Lake District Library will host the stamp collecting group from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, in the community room.

Beginner and experienced stamp collectors as well as those who are curious about stamp collecting are welcome. People who want help organizing their loose stamps are invited to bring them to this meeting. This group is actively seeking people who are interested in learning the art of stamp collecting, and they are eager to share their knowledge about this hobby.

For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Portage Library to host Isle Royale Nature Program for Kids Aug. 1

The Portage Lake District Library will host Isle Royale National Park Rangers Katie Donovan and Barb McTaggart as their series of naturalist programs for children continues.

From 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 1, kids will learn what they can do to keep wilderness wild. In this program Donovan, McTaggart, and the kids will talk trash and learn how to Leave No Trace in the big outdoors. Kids will learn six simple rules to become a responsible camper and use their new found skills to investigate the "Leave No Trace" crime scene.

The Isle Royale Summer Series for Kids is suitable for children of all ages, and groups are welcome to attend.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Family friendly comedian/ventriloquist to perform at Calumet Theatre Aug. 2

CALUMET -- The Calumet Theatre and Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital will present a special live performance by comedian/ventriloquist Kevin Johnson at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2. This performance is the finale of the Movie Magic Club.

Children 14 and under receive a free ticket with a paid adult ticket (limited to 250 free tickets). Adult prices are $15 and additional children’s tickets are $10.

Although you’ll never see Kevin Johnson’s mouth move, the real magic happens with the believability of his characters. You’ll fall in love with Matilda, laugh hysterically with Clyde and relate awkwardly with Harley. Throughout his show you’ll see and experience different variations of ventriloquism. From an audience participant becoming one of Kevin’s puppets to a magical drawing board coming to life, his show is a hit to every age. He has a unique ability to appeal to children, seniors and everyone in between.

Kevin is mostly recognized from his 2006 appearance on NBC’s prime time show "America’s Got Talent." More than 18 million viewers were amazed by his "Godzilla Theater," and Simon Cowell told Kevin, "America loves you."

In February 2007, Kevin achieved one of his lifelong goals when he appeared on "The Late Show" with David Letterman.

This event is sponsored by Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital .

Tickets are available by phoning or by visiting the Calumet Theatre Box Office. Box Office hours are Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and two and a half hours before show time. For more information, please call the Calumet Theatre Box office at (906) 337-2610 or check the web page at and at