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.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Carnegie Museum to host Open House for new exhibits June 22

HOUGHTON -- The Carnegie Museum in Houghton will host a re-opening Open House from noon to 4 p.m. TOMORROW, Saturday, June 22.

Stop by for some punch and sweets and see the new collection of exhibits, "Gone But Not Forgotten: Preserving Memories of the Copper Country." These exhibits are included:

Rural Reflections: Finnish American Buildings and Landscapes in Michigan's Copper Country. Photographs by Ryan Holt with Historical Narrative by Arnold Alanen.

"This [exhibit] documents the built environment that Finnish immigrants and their descendants created in Michigan's Copper Country from the 1880s through the 1930s. Although much of this heritage has been lost with the passage of time, the district yet holds one of the largest concentrations of rural Finnish buildings and cultural landscapes in North America." -- from historical narrative written by Arnold Alanen for the exhibit Rural Reflections.

Last Days of Italian Hall: Photographs by Eric Munch of the 1984 demolition of Calumet's Italian Hall.

Family Ties: Family Histories of Those Lost in the 1913 Italian Hall Tragedy. By the Houghton Keweenaw County Genealogical Society

From the Old School: Memories from the Old Houghton High School 1923 - 1989. Oral histories about life in "the Old School."

Beginning June 22, the Carnegie Museum will be open Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. From July 5 through September 28 the museum will be open Tuesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday noon to 4 p.m.

The Carnegie Museum is on the corner of Huron and Montezuma in Houghton. For more information email or call (906) 482-7140.

Opinion: Rio Tinto sale of Eagle Mine to Lundin Mining Corp. raises questions

By Gene Champagne*
Submitted June 21, 2013

Concerning Rio Tinto's sale of the Eagle Mine project to Lundin Mining Corporation, there is not much to react to. The permit is currently the same. The legality of the permit remains an issue, as the DEQ ignored the law and rules in granting it. The amendment for electricity remains fraudulent. I actually feel somewhat sorry for Lundin. I do not know what Rio Tinto told them, or failed to tell them, but they are in for a big surprise and probably a world of hurt.

There are reasons other than strict economic tightening that are causing Rio Tinto to give away this mine for dimes on the dollar for what they have sunk into it. I remember Jon Cherry, in a Mining Journal article a couple of years ago during an economic slowdown, stating that Eagle was a "world-class ore body" and that Kennecott (at that time) would not abandon it. Looks like the "woodshed" is pretty bare now, eh?

Rio Tinto and DEQ officials will still have to answer some very uncomfortable questions concerning their collusion in forming the non-profit Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association (NMGRA). The answers could result in criminal complaints being filed.**

The list goes on. Is Lundin aware of the ongoing environmental issues that were not anticipated at the mine? I hope, without much hope, that the DEQ demands a more realistic and much higher financial assurance from Lundin, as this is their only mine in the U. S. and they can disappear into the night a whole lot easier than Rio Tinto/Kennecott.

Will Rio Tinto be allowed to leave with all of their financial insurance money? Will Lundin count workers from Canada as local hires, much as Rio Tinto considered workers from Wisconsin to be local? Lundin obviously will have to overcome much public skepticism and mistrust that has been created by Rio Tinto.

Editor's Notes:

* Guest writer Gene Champagne is a member of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay.

** See our June 18, 2013, article, "Citizens demand federal investigation of collusion between state regulators and mining industry."

Michigan Tech News: Performers spread their wings on stage

By Travis Gendron, student intern
Posted June 20, 2013, on Michigan Tech News
Reprinted in part with permission

The cast and crew of Beautiful have to work closely together in flying productions. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- What happens when you put engineers, flying dancers and silk together on a stage? You get a whole new -- and beautiful -- kind of theatrical production. Beautiful, running June 19 - 21 at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts, combines aerial and flying dance routines with a more traditional theatrical production.

The show is the culmination of the Beautiful Intensive, a three-week traveling workshop that trains performers in dance, aerial dance and flying. Beginning with a production in southern Florida that received rave reviews, the Intensive was created to further develop the show.

Performers from across the country auditioned. The best then traveled to Michigan Tech to receive training and to put on the show.

Beautiful tells the story of how the butterfly grew her wings -- both literally and metaphorically. Since the show does not contain dialogue, the performance relies on movement, music and sound effects to tell its story....

Click here to read the rest of this article on Michigan Tech News.

Editor's Note: One more performance of Beautiful will be given at 7:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Friday, June 21. Click here for more information, including ticket availability.

Bergonzi String Quartet to perform free children's concert June 22 at Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- The Bergonzi String Quartet of the Pine Mountain Music Festival will perform a free children’s concert at noon on Saturday, June 22, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton

The Legend of the Loon, a book written by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, will be featured in the concert. The Quartet will perform Pamela McConnell’s special musical arrangement of a Sibelius composition, which will accompany local resident Trudy Olsson as she narrates the legend. Using Scandinavian symbolism, Wargin tells the story of the magnificent loon and how grandmothers of a thousand years live in us.

The Bergonzi String Quartet has been Quartet-in-Residence at the Pine Mountain Music Festival since 1995. Violinists Glen Basham and Scott Flavin, cellist Ross Harbaugh, and violist Pamela McConnell are faculty members at the University of Miami where the Bergonzi Quartet has been Quartet-in-Residence since its formation in1992. The members have extensive collective experience, performing in virtually every major center in the world, with concerts throughout Europe, North and South America, New Zealand, and Asia. They have generated enormous excitement around the world for their superb virtuosity; and their charm, humor, and great music-making has been an important cultural asset for the Pine Mountain Music Festival and the Upper Peninsula.

There is no admission for this concert and all are welcome to attend. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Opinion: Thoughts on Rio Tinto, Lundin Mining Corp. and Michigan Eagle Project

By Jack Parker*
Submitted to Keweenaw Now on June 14, 2013

Here they are -- my personal opinions.

1. We, the general public, have no reason to accept pronouncements by Rio Tinto as completely truthful, despite their claim to be open and transparent in their dealings with the public. We must expect trickery, even outright lies, as evinced in court proceedings over the last seven years. The present announcement of a sale of the Eagle project to a Canadian corporation, Lundin Mining -- a binding agreement already made -- unbeknownst to the people of Upper Michigan, is not atypical.

2. This is not the first such deal. Rio has already sold two other mining properties to Lundin. Keep that in mind.

3. The press release put out by Lundin contains much more information than those released by Rio Tinto to be published locally. Please click on it and read it before proceeding further. You will probably enjoy it:

Note that Lundin trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange and is thus subject to regulation by the Ontario Securities Act, which is much stricter than our own. But note at the same time that they are also listed and traded over the counter in this country.

4.  Selling price. This comes as a big surprise -- nominally $325,000,000 for an ore body originally valued at around $4,700,000,000, i.e., less than 10 percent! That can be explained in part by a re-evaluation of the ore reserves to suit Canadian practices and in part due to diminished metal prices. On the other hand Rio announced a finding of 20 percent more ore less than a month ago and now the Lundin version adds considerable hope for three additional ore bodies close to the Eagle, namely Eagle West, Eagle East and Eagle Deep. The selling price appears to be very generous.

5.  Rich Parents? Have you heard of these special corporate deals wherein Corp A sells something dirt cheap to Corp B, which then makes good profits while Corp A reports a loss -- but Corp A holds a controlling interest in Corp B. One of the best was when McDonalds spun off Chipotle (not a direct competitor) and made a bundle on both! But Rio Tinto, No. 3 in the world, wouldn’t sell three mining properties to Lundin, a lesser competitor, for reasons like that, would they?

I don’t even know how Eag­­le is related to Rio any more. Who does? Liabilities? Who will Superior Watershed report to? Who will pick up their tab?

6.  I don’t know enough to like or dislike the proposed (but binding) sale.

7.  My hope is that Ontario Securities will investigate and will discover that the Eagle Project is based on fraud and is thus out of bounds for Lundin to purchase for their shareholders.

8.  Years ago I got a hot tip from a mining client who told me to buy into a Canadian gold property -- and Paine-Webber, the US broker, told me they could not touch it. Too hot. That is why I’m still working 20 years past retirement age!

* Editor's Note: Guest writer Jack Parker of Toivola, Mich., is a semi-retired mining engineer/geologist, who specializes in practical rock mechanics. See our Dec. 6, 2010, article on his reports about the Eagle Mine, "Mining expert Jack Parker says Eagle Mine likely to collapse."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Author Steve Lehto to speak on Italian Hall Disaster, offer local book signings June 20, 22, 26

By Michele Bourdieu

At a presentation about his books and research June 7, 2012, in Atlantic Mine, author Steve Lehto speaks about the extremely dangerous and unfairly paid work of the trammer, who was paid according to the amount of ore he pushed from the mine without scales to weigh it -- simply according to the "eyeball" judgment of a supervisor. (Photos by Keweenaw Now unless otherwise indicated.)

HOUGHTON, CALUMET -- Steve Lehto, noted Finnish-American author, attorney and professor, will be giving three lectures based on his 1913 Strike and Italian Hall research at FinnFest on Thursday, June 20, and Saturday, June 22, and at the Calumet Library on Wednesday, June 26. Lehto will discuss what we know -- and don’t know -- about the Strike and the Italian Hall on the occasion of the centennial, and why it is that so much has remained hidden for so long.

The lecture, titled "The Italian Hall Disaster: What We Know 100 Years Later," will be offered at noon Thursday in Fisher 325 on the Michigan Tech campus and at 2 p.m. Saturday in Fisher 138. A day pass or full FinnFest pass is required for these FinnFest lectures.

The Calumet Library presentation will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. next Wednesday, June 26, in the CLK Commons (use library entrance) at Calumet High School, 57070 Mine St., Calumet. The library event, sponsored by Friends of the Calumet Public Library, is free and open to the public. It will include a book signing and sale of Lehto's new book, Death's Door: The Truth Behind the Italian Hall Disaster and the Strike of 1913 (2013). For more information call (906) 337-0311 ext.1107.

Lehto will also do three additional book signings this week: from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at Copper World in Calumet; from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, June 21, at the Einerlei in Chassell; and from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 27, at Grandpa’s Barn, 385 4th St., Copper Harbor. Call (906) 289-4377 for more information on Grandpa's Barn.

At a book signing after his June 2012 presentation in Atlantic Mine, Steve Lehto signs one of his books for Joanne Thomas of Allouez Township. For the centennial commemoration in Calumet this year, Thomas has created an exhibit about Big Annie Clemenc, a formidable leader during the 1913 Strike, now displayed at the Coppertown Museum in Calumet.

Lehto says the new Death's Door -- just published June 1, 2013 -- is a second edition with more than 200 pages of additional material (compared to the first Death's Door which came out in 2006).

"It is remarkable, but we are still learning more about the Italian Hall, even after 99 and 1/2 years," he notes.

Lehto has also been a consultant for a documentary on the Strike and Italian Hall, Red Metal: The Copper Country Strike of 1913, which will premiere on  PBS Tuesday, December 17, 2013, at 9 p.m. as a primetime special.

"That's common carriage, but individual PBS stations can choose to air it at a different time," he explained.

In Calumet's Lakeview Cemetery last fall, filmmakers Bob Lee, left, and Jonathan Silvers of Saybrook Productions Ltd. film footage for their documentary, Red Metal: The Copper Country Strike of 1913, which will premiere on PBS in December 2013. Steve Lehto has been a consultant for the film. (Photo © and courtesy Steve Lehto)

The film will make its debut in time for the centennial of the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, which occurred on Christmas Eve, 1913, when more than 73 people, mostly children, died -- crushed in a staircase when someone yelled "Fire," a false alarm.

In his June 2012 presentation in Atlantic Mine, Steve Lehto projected this historic photo of Italian Hall in Calumet, the scene of the tragic disaster of Christmas Eve 1913.

Lehto practices and teaches law in southeastern Michigan, and he has taught history at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Steve Lehto is also the author of two other books concerning the era of the 1913 Strike: Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder (2006) and Shortcut: The Seeberville Murders and the Dark Side of the American Dream (2011). While his experience as an attorney is evident in his research of court proceedings and his knowledge of law as well as history, Lehto also digs for facts, often contrasting and analyzing opposing versions of journalistic and historical accounts of these significant and tragic events of the Copper Country's past -- which have reverberations into the present.

In describing accounts of the Italian Hall disaster, Steve Lehto notes the differences in 1913 news stories about the event -- depending on the language of the newspaper. Here he contrasts the Finnish report in the Työmies newspaper with accounts in the English-language papers of the time.

On June 7, 2012, The Adams Township School District (ATSD) Foundation, Inc., and the Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center (SSPRHC) hosted a presentation by Lehto on those two books. Here are some video clips and more photos with highlights from his talk:

In this introduction to his June 7, 2012, presentation on his books and research in the Brownstone Hall in Atlantic Mine, Steve Lehto talks about events that led to the 1913 Copper Miners' Strike in the Copper Country. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Here Lehto speaks about the importance of women in the 1913 Copper Miners' Strike. Using historic photographs, many from the Michigan Tech Archives, he notes the key role of "Big Annie" Clemenc as a leader of the strike parades in Calumet.

Lehto tells the story of the Seeberville murders of two Croatian miners by strikebreakers during the 1913 Copper Miners' Strike. The incident and the court case that followed are the principal subject of Lehto's 2011 book, Shortcut: the Seeberville Murders and the Dark Side of the American Dream

This recently placed marker in Calumet's Lakeview Cemetery commemorates the two Croatian miners -- Steve Putrich and Alois Tijan -- who were murdered during an attack on a boarding house in Seeberville, near South Range, in August, 1913, during the Copper Miners' Strike. 

During his presentation, Lehto points out the shed entrance at the back of the boarding house where one of the armed strikebreakers chased a fleeing miner. Other armed men hired by the mining company then fired through the windows, killing two innocent miners.

Lehto displayed this historic photo of Anthony Lucas, the Croatian prosecutor who proved the strikebreakers were guilty of shooting innocent miners in Seeberville.

In this video clip Lehto speaks about the Italian Hall disaster on Christmas Eve, 1913, in Calumet, during the copper miners' strike. He has written about this event most recently in the recently published second edition (2013) of his book Death's Door: The Truth Behind the Italian Hall Disaster and the Strike of 1913.

Lehto will also give another presentation in Atlantic Mine on August 14, 2013.

Lehto's family connection to the Copper Country should also be of interest to FinnFest visitors. His grandfather, Waino (Pop) Lehto, was a long-time dean of Suomi
College (now Finlandia University) and his great-grandfather, Eelu Kiviranta, wrote and published poetry in Finnish.

At FinnFest, Lillian Lehto, Steve Lehto's mother, of Birmingham, Michigan, will present a Reading of "The Copper Country Strike of 1913" at noon on Friday, June 21, in Fisher 325 at Michigan Tech. Lillian Lehto, a volunteer librarian at the Farmington Finnish Center, graduated from the Lutheran Bible Institute and from Suomi College. She earned degrees from Oakland University and the University of Michigan. From 1984 to 1994 she edited and published The Fennophile : A Magazine for and by Those who Love Finland, published from 1986 to 1994 and now archived in the Finnish-American Historical archives at Finnish-American Heritage Center in Hancock.

Click here to see Steve Lehto's Italian Hall Disaster Resource page on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Citizens demand federal investigation of collusion between state regulators and mining industry

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from a Save the Wild U.P. press release

Concerned citizens demonstrate near the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Upper Peninsula office outside Marquette with signs calling for a Department of Justice investigation of the alleged "non-profit" Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association (NMGRA), whose board members have included mining company executives and state regulating agency officials. (Photos © Sally Western and courtesy Save the Wild U.P. unless otherwise indicated.)

[Editor's Update: See below for a clarification concerning the geologic repositories from the DEQ's Melanie Humphrey.

MARQUETTE --  Local residents, including KBIC tribal members, Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, and Save the Wild U.P., rallied at a joint press conference on Saturday, June 8, 2013, calling for a corruption investigation related to activities of an unusual "non-profit" corporation, the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association (NMGRA), based in Marquette County.

Nearly two dozen citizens spent that Saturday afternoon in the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Upper Peninsula office parking lot in Gwinn, holding hand-lettered signs that outlined corruption concerns, speaking with locals driving by, participating in a question-and-answer session, and reviewing what they call "the murky facts surrounding NMGRA."

Signs like this one at the June 8 demonstration refer to NMGRA's refusal to disclose financial information requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Pictured here are, from left, Rich Sloat of Iron River (Mich.); Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay; Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. Board vice president; and Alexandra Thebert, Save the Wild U.P. executive director.

In 2008, while Rio Tinto was in the process of planning and constructing the mine at Eagle Rock, high-ranking state officials directly charged with enforcing mining safety and environmental regulations formed the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association as a "non-profit" corporation, whose Board of Directors featured Rio Tinto and Bitterroot Resources mining executives alongside DEQ and DNR officials. At the same time, according to Save the Wild U.P. and other environmental groups, these state officials were failing to enforce environmental and safety regulations enacted to protect the health and well-being of U.P. citizens.

Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) tribal member and former federal oil regulator, led the group on a walking tour of a large cinder block warehouse building located nearby, identified by signage as a "State Warehouse." The property is actually leased from the Marquette County Economic Development Corporation by the nonprofit Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association -- and serves as its core shed, housing valuable core samples. Local workers report seeing only Rio Tinto vehicles accessing the warehouse.

This "State Warehouse" building at the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, near the Upper Peninsula DEQ office outside Marquette, serves as a core shed for the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association (NMGRA). See UPDATE below.

According to Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, the warehouse building is a great place for hiding something.

"It looks totally neglected. Here’s this big building covered with peeling paint, surrounded by invasive knapweed and erosion gullies -- anyone driving by would assume it was a giant meth lab, not a top-secret core shed set up by mining executives and controlled by the Michigan DEQ," Champagne noted. "Peeking in the windows, you can see an emergency list of contact people that includes not  only police agencies and  hospitals, but Kennecott/Rio Tinto employees, and DEQ officials."

Near the Upper Peninsula District Office of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in Gwinn, this map taped to the wall of a large warehouse labels the facility a "State Warehouse." Core samples are stored within, but the DEQ claims no further association with NMGRA, the non-profit that has leased the warehouse and is attempting to raise money to make it a state geologic repository. (Photo courtesy Save the Wild U.P.)

Champagne says citizens can FOIA information on this for a reason.

"We need to be the watchdog of government to ensure that our business is conducted in the light of day and in the best interest of the people, not special interest," he explains. "Our elected local, state, and federal representatives and officials who all decry this type of secrecy in government need to demand action and ask questions of the DEQ."*

DEQ: State not part of NMGRA but new repository needed

Despite the "State Warehouse" sign, though, the warehouse is not (yet) an official state repository, according to at least one DEQ official.

"It's not officially part of the state at all," said Melanie Humphrey, geological technician in the Michigan DEQ Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals, Upper Peninsula District. "NMGRA is hoping to make it a geological repository for core, rock samples and records that have geological information."

Humphrey is the contact person for anyone who wishes to visit the existing geologic repository in Harvey, near Marquette. That facility is full to capacity -- thus the need for a larger storage area such as the warehouse in Gwinn. At present the repository in Harvey receives visits from the U.S. Geological Survey, graduate students, archaeologists and other persons interested in studying the core and rock samples. The repository serves as a library. Anyone can come and visit the facility in Harvey by making an appointment with Humphrey, who will open it for visitors.**

"I think it would be very nice to have a research center up here," Humphrey said.

UPDATE: In response to a question from Keweenaw Now, Melanie Humphrey sent an email today, June 18, to explain that, while NMGRA's warehouse building at the former Sawyer Air Force Base site is not owned by the state, she sometimes stores cores there because the repository in Harvey is full to capacity: "As a result, NMGRA has given permission to store core samples that have recently been released to the state from various Upper Peninsula exploration projects at the Sawyer building. I can get access to that core if needed. The core at the Sawyer building is stored on pallets and not organized; but, if someone is interested in looking at this core, I could arrange a visit to the Sawyer building with NMGRA’s permission," she writes.**

The Geologic Repository (there is a second one in Kalamazoo) is needed because of a law that requires industries (oil, gas and mining) to give the state core samples or related documents left over from exploration on state land or land with state mineral rights, Humphrey explained. If the drilling is on private property the company is not required to do this.

"It could be valuable information," Humphrey noted.

While NMGRA was formerly associated with the DNR, which leases surface state land, and the DEQ, which regulates it, apparently the non-profit organization is now separate from the state but trying to raise money to pay for the warehouse in Gwinn with the idea of making it a new state repository. Humphrey described it as "a group of people that see the value of having this repository for the state to preserve geological information."

"We wouldn't get core from an active mine, but once the mine closes the leftover core could be donated to the repository," Humphrey added. "The core that we have at our repository in Harvey is all open-record."

Hal Fitch, state geologist and chief of the DEQ Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals in Lansing, explained that the repository fulfills a function required by Part 601 of NREPA (Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act 451), which states, "The Michigan geological survey shall provide for the collection and conservation of cores, samples, and specimens for the illustration of every division of the geology and mineralogy of this state, to the extent that facilities and funds are available to do so."***

Fitch was a member of the NMGRA board of directors when the non-profit was established in 2008 but is no longer associated with it, he said.

Fitch told Keweenaw Now he is aware of the community group's intention to request a Department of Justice investigation of NMGRA.

"I would say go right ahead because there's nothing improper (about the non-profit), and at the time we (the DEQ and the DNR, Department of Natural Resources) were involved there was nothing improper about our involvement," Fitch said.

Because of the Part 601 requirement and the fact that he was unable to secure state funding for a suitable repository to continue to collect and preserve core samples and related data, Fitch was involved in establishing NMGRA in order to provide for the future support of a repository, he explained.

"We were looking for people who utilized the core repository to support the concept," he said. "We didn't get to the point where we were soliciting funding while we were members."

Geologic repositories are a function of the Geological Survey. In 2008 Fitch's department, the Office of Geological Survey, was the Geological Survey established by Part 601. In 2011 Part 601 was revised, and the Geological Survey was established within Western Michigan University. While that is a state university, the Geological Survey is no longer part of the DEQ, Fitch explained.

Fitch was unable to say exactly when he and the DNR representative on the NMGRA board, Milton A. Gere, Jr., who is now retired, left NMGRA; but it was before 2011, he noted.

"I never contemplated seeking funding from an outside source, such as industry, for the state of Michigan or for the association (NMGRA) during the time I was a member of it," Fitch added. "The association would be a separate entity that would receive funding later. That was the concept."

Fitch noted he just wanted to get the association established. He said he believed industry, academia or grant sources might fund NMGRA later, when he would not be a part of it.

He also said there was no connection between NMGRA and the issuing of mining permits.

"No mining company or outside source offered any money to NMGRA while I was on the board of it," Fitch said.

An Oct. 28, 2008, article in the Lake Superior Mining News, states that Hal Fitch (at that time director of the DEQ's Office of Geological Survey, or OGS) formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation with Kennecott and Bitterroot Resources, "registering the non-profit under the DEQ’s address with himself as the primary contact."

The article also notes, "In an October 2007 e-mail, Fitch acknowledged 'that there would be a problem with a state agency forming a corporation' but 'came up with an innovative way to address the problem: formation of a non-profit corporation that is not a part of any state agency, but in which OGS is a participating member.'"****

Electric infrastructure for Eagle Mine "core shed" installed without permit

In October 2008, Rio Tinto claimed it needed a 10-megawatt substation and miles of private power lines to electrify a core shed adjacent to the Eagle Mine site.

This was approved by Jim Sygo, DEQ deputy director, in a letter to Rio Tinto (Kennecott Eagle Minerals, or KEM) dated Nov. 7, 2008, in which he says,"The DEQ considers the planned core shed to be part of KEM continuing exploration program. It does not constitute nonferrous metallic mineral mining or reclamation and therefore is not subject to a mining permit under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended."

This October 2010 photo shows power lines being run along the AAA Road leading to the Eagle Mine without a request from (Rio Tinto's) Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. (KEMC) for an amendment to their mining permit for this infrastructure. (File photo by Keweenaw Now)

However, once the power had been installed, the core shed was deemed unnecessary, and Eagle Mine was electrified instead -- a bait-switch move that sidestepped permitting, due process, and public participation.

"This core shed symbolizes Rio Tinto's end-run around Part 632, the legislation governing non-ferrous mining in Michigan," said Loman.

Mining companies fund core shed for state

During recent Rio Tinto community forums in Marquette and in L'Anse, Loman asked Matt Johnson, Rio Tinto Eagle Mine government and community affairs manager, about funding for the NMGRA non-profit and questioned its report of an annual income of less than $25,000 (an amount that exempts them from reporting financial information) when it has signed a 5-year lease totaling $400,000 for the core shed in Gwinn. The non-profit receives tax-deductible donations but will not reveal information about the donors or amounts.*

During the May 15, 2013, Rio Tinto Community Forum in L'Anse, Michigan, Jeffery Loman, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community member and former regulator, asks Rio Tinto's Matt Johnson questions concerning the non-profit (NMGRA), FOIA requests about it that were unanswered, and the 14th Amendment. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Johnson later commented on Loman's questions. In the following video clip, Johnson says state officials are not members of the NMGRA non-profit:

Matt Johnson, Rio Tinto Eagle Mine government and community affairs manager, speaks about NMGRA, the non-profit Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association, in response to questions from Jeffery Loman at the May 15, 2013, Rio Tinto community forum in L'Anse.

"Their continual denial of access to information about their core shed (warehouse near the DEQ office) is a violation of the 14th Amendment," Loman said. "Something smells bad here. Why create a private non-profit to perform a function of the state of Michigan? The circumstances surrounding these dealings between state officials and mining companies look like a bad rash on this administration," he added. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Hopefully Governor Snyder will agree."

Mary Ellen Krieg, a resident of Big Bay, called the situation "a barrel of rotten apples."

No response to FOIA requests for facts about NMGRA

Attorney Jana Mathieu, who represents the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, has sent a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for financial information to NMGRA's registered agent, Ron Greenlee, a Marquette attorney; but Greenlee has repeatedly failed to respond. Mathieu eventually served him with a lawsuit for violation of the Freedom of Information Act, to which he also has refused to respond.

In her Feb. 11, 2013, FOIA request sent to Greenlee, Mathieu asked for any and all of the following: year-end reports on activities, full annual budgets and/or year-end financial statements, audits of finances, year-end reports on assets and liabilities, reports on equity ownership, statements regarding tax-exempt status, tax statements and filings, and lists of the board of directors and/or officers for three entities -- the Northern Michigan Geologic Repository Association, the Northern Michigan Geology Data Library, and the Northern Michigan Geological Repository.

"The citizens of Michigan have consistently been denied access to information with regard to this so-called non-profit," Mathieu said. "Today we are pulling back the veil of secrecy."

Demonstrating for access to information near the Upper Peninsula DEQ office on June 8 are, from left, Jana Mathieu, attorney; Jeffery Loman, KBIC member and former federal regulator, Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. board vice president; and Gene Champagne of Concerned Citizens of Big Bay.

NMGRA is a public body under the Freedom of Information Act because the DEQ and Michigan Office of Geological Survey were key players in the formation of the non-profit, Mathieu explained.

The non-profit status of NMGRA allows mining companies to make tax-deductible donations to state (public) agencies, she noted.

"They're donating this money to the state regulators who are responsible for regulating their mines and enforcing safety and environmental regulations against these mining companies," Mathieu said.

Loman agreed: "I just think it's an extremely bad way to do government business -- to form a non-profit with mining companies that the state is supposed to regulate," he added.

Mathieu noted the question becomes "What are these mining companies getting from this?"

"That's why we're calling for an investigation by the Department of Justice of this non-profit," Mathieu said. "There's a strong argument that it does violate the Michigan Ethics Act."*****

Attorney Michelle Halley of Marquette said, "As things stand, there’s no plan for any independent review of the quantity, content and grade of the ore removed at Eagle Mine. Essentially, that means the state is allowing Rio Tinto to self-report its income which serves as the basis for the taxes due the state. The DEQ's Hal Fitch will just take Rio Tinto's word for it; and in turn, Hal Fitch wants every taxpayer in Michigan to take his word for it."

For several years Halley represented the National Wildlife Federation in a contested case against the DEQ and Kennecott (Rio Tinto), challenging the mining permit for the Eagle Mine. The case is now at the Michigan Court of Appeals. Other parties challenging the permit in the case are the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and the Huron Mountain Club.

"It was through the contested case, for which I was one of the attorneys, that we found out about this non-profit organization," Halley said. "I support citizens finding out the truth and state officials being accountable for accepting money from private industry, especially when it's the same state officials who make the permitting recommendations for those same companies."

"There are serious concerns about the connections between the mining industry and the regulatory role of the state," agrees Alexandra Thebert, executive director of Save the Wild U.P. "In the best interest of all Michiganders, we are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate."

Projected sale of Eagle Project to Lundin Mining Corporation would not alter plans for investigation

The news (released last week) about Rio Tinto's plans to sell the Eagle Project to the Lundin Mining Corporation does not change the plans by Save the Wild U.P. and other groups to call for a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation.

"No change here -- same mine, same state permits and lousy state regulators," says Jeffery Loman. "If Rio Tinto executives violated the law, selling Eagle Mine isn't going to get them off the hook."

Gene Champagne agreed: "As far as I am concerned, it does not change my call for a DOJ investigation. The NMGRA is going nowhere and neither is RT. They still have large landholdings and mineral leases in the UP. RT is just moving on to another deposit in the UP and leaving Lundin with the mess they started at Eagle."

In response to a question from Keweenaw Now, Rio Tinto had little to say about the potential investigation.

"We are aware of the recent allegations made by a group of community members," said Dan Blondeau, director of communications and media relations for Rio Tinto Eagle Mine.

Concerning Rio Tinto's future plans in the region following the sale of the Eagle Project, Blondeau said, "The binding agreement between Rio Tinto and Lundin Mining Corporation is for Eagle Mine -- which includes the mine, mill, and selected property  adjacent to the mine. Rio Tinto controls roughly 400,000 acres of mineral rights in the UP and is assessing future plans with other exploration efforts."


* Click here for an overview of NMGRA's non-profit status.

** Click here for the DEQ page on Michigan's two geological repositories. The page gives contact information for Melanie Humphrey and links to information on the repositories. UPDATE: According to Humphrey, NMGRA’s intention is that at some point the building at Sawyer will be run by a state agency or the Michigan Geological Survey, which is not a state regulatory agency. The Michigan Geological Survey is currently an entity within Western Michigan University, which oversees its operations.

*** See Part 601, Section 324.60105: Michigan geological survey; collection and conservation of cores, samples, and specimens.

**** See the Oct. 28, 2008, article, "DEQ and Kennecott Form a Non-Profit Corporation," in Lake Superior Mining News.

***** Click here to learn about the Michigan Ethics Act.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hancock Tori to be open all five days of FinnFest with extended hours

By Michele Bourdieu

Gustavo Bourdieu will be selling his hand-painted and engraved rocks at the Hancock Tori during FinnFest this week. He might even sell you a special shopping bag made on his sewing machine, whether you need one or just want one! (June 12, 2013, photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- As part of FinnFest USA 2013, the Hancock Tori farmers' market will be open in its usual location on the Quincy Green near the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock throughout FinnFest with extended hours.

During FinnFest, the Hancock Tori will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Wednesday, June 19, through Saturday, June 22, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 23.

The Tori will feature all local crafts, baked goods, jams, jellies, home-made tabouli and more at reasonable prices. It is outside with free entry and open to the public.

Sandy Soring, Tori co-manager, said she expects 27 different vendors for the FinnFest Tori in Hancock. Here are some of the regular Tori vendors who plan to be there extra hours during FinnFest:

Carol Bird, seamstress extraordinaire, displays and wears some special necktie purses, scarves and bracelets she will be selling during FinnFest. They look like men's ties, but they are items creatively designed for women. Carol also makes lovely aprons, napkins and more!

If you're interested in some exquisite, hand-crafted jewelry, be sure to check out artist Carol Williams' booth at the Hancock Tori. You will be tempted!

Sandy Soring, Tori co-manager, sells home-grown plants and herbs. Follow the great aroma of fresh basil ...

Teresa Palosaari, Tori co-manager, displays a wide variety of hand-made items and homemade baked goods, jams and jellies. Be sure to check them out at the Hancock Tori during FinnFest. Just look for her sunny smile!

Mina Nikfarjaam from Iran, left, has returned to the Hancock Tori this summer after her introduction to it last year. She sells Middle Eastern style baked goods and homemade tabouli. Pictured with her is Jeanne Medlyn, Tori co-manager, who sells home-spun yarn. Knitters, check it out!

Dorn Dyttmer sells a variety of items at the Tori, including his hand-made post cards, homemade baked goods, music and more. Dorn is also a musician so you may hear him playing music as well!

At the Hancock Tori you will see some of the vendors all five days; others will be selling their wares periodically. Additionally, this special Tori will offer many of the elements that are usually seen there only during the Heikinpäivä midwinter festival. There’ll be a kicksled, vipukelkka (whipsled), vintage saunas, a Midsummer pole, an instructional exhibit on home weatherization, and more. Don't miss it!

Rio Tinto, Lundin Mining Corp. to host community updates on sale of Eagle Mine

MARQUETTE -- Rio Tinto and Lundin Mining Corporation will host a series of community updates that will be held throughout Marquette and Baraga counties. The updates offer an opportunity for community members to learn more about the recent sale of Eagle Mine, and, most importantly, to have an open dialog about the next steps for Eagle.

Each of the following update sessions will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

    June 19: Ishpeming Country Village
    June 20: Humboldt Township Hall
    June 24: Marquette Holiday Inn
    June 25: Michigamme Township Hall
    June 26: Powell Township Hall
    June 27: L'Anse American Legion

For more information about the community updates, visit Rio Tinto's Information Center on Washington Street in Marquette, or call their Community Hotline at (906) 339-7150.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Young cyclists 3-13 race in Junior Chain Drive at Portage Health

By Michele Bourdieu

Marc Norton (right in orange shirt), Junior Chain Drive organizer, explains to the youngest racers (under age 7) how to follow the course laid out for them at Portage Health. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The 2013 Junior Chain Drive attracted more than 65 young participants ages 3-13 -- as well as parents, grand-parents and other supporters and volunteers -- to the Portage Health campus on a cloudy Saturday afternoon, June 15. Despite a few raindrops, the races were a success.

Racers under 7 take off for their 0.5 mile untimed race.

"We have an untimed race for any aged kids who aren't ready for the 3/4 mile event," said Marc Norton, Junior Chain Drive organizer.

Parents, grand-parents and other family members and friends urge the youngest racers on. Among the spectators, at right, is Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz, who came out to support some of his grandchildren participating in this Father's Day weekend race.

 Young racers head for the finish line ...

Biking on wet grass is a challenge. Young cyclists learn safety and courtesy riding in groups. 

"Push it, push it!" is the command this young fellow hears from the audience -- faster than trying to get back on the bike so close to the finish!

The second group of racers is lined up, waiting for the start ...

... and they're off!

Junior Chain Drive timed races include a 3/4 mile race for ages 8 and under, a 1.5 mile event (2 laps) for ages 10 and under and a 3 mile event (4 laps) for ages 14 and under.

"We hope the parents assess their child's ability as to which event they should participate. We do end up with some very competent 9 year olds doing the 3 mile race once in a while," Norton explained.

The more experienced racers are challenged by a single-track trail through the woods.

"Some places have gravel paths on which to hold a kids' race," Norton noted. "This one is a true mountain bike course with single track -- all the roots and rocks that one should expect in a mountain bike race. Those that finish have accomplished a pretty significant feat for ones so small and with such small tires."

Smaller tires do not roll over obstacles as easily as the big ones, he added.

Click here to find the results of the Junior Chain Drive race and the adult Chain Drive races held earlier on Saturday, June 15.