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Friday, July 13, 2018

UPDATED: MDEQ to hold public meeting/hearing on proposed Copperwood mining permit amendment, water permit updates

By Michele Bourdieu

This photo shows a portion of Namebinag Creek, which could be impacted by wastewater discharges from the Copperwood mining project. See map below showing nearby streams. (Keweenaw Now file photo © and courtesy John Leddy)

[UPDATE: MDEQ has announced they will extend the comment period on renewal of Copperwood's permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, for 10 days following the July 17 Public Hearing announced below. Public comments on this permit will now be accepted through Thursday, July 26, 2018.]

MARQUETTE -- The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) will hold a joint public meeting and hearing regarding Highland Copper subsidiary Copperwood Resources Inc.’s recent requests: 1) to amend Mining Permit MP 01 2012, issued under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining, and (2) renewal of Copperwood's permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994, PA 1994, as amended.

The meeting/hearing will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, July 17, at Gogebic Community College, Lindquist Student and Conference Center, Upper Level Conference Room, E-4946 Jackson Road, Ironwood, MI 49938.

The meeting will allow questions and answers on both permits and provide information on the changes proposed in the amendment to the Part 632 Mining Permit, including (1) relocation of process plant; (2) additional of outdoor stockpile; and (3) modification of mine ventilation.*

According to Copperwood's Amendment proposal, "The defined Project mining area associated with this Amendment remains similar to the mining area presented in the original Mine Permit Application (MPA) (Orvana, 2011).  The only change to the mining area occurs along the western portion of the mining area, where its boundary extends further to the southwest to account for the modified layout of the processing and support facilities."

This map, a screenshot from figure 2-1 of Copperwood's proposed Amendment to their Part 632 Mining permit, shows the change in mining area. The yellow line in the southwest corner marks the original extent of mining in the permit, while the green line shows the new southwest boundary. Click on map for slightly larger version or click here for the proposed Amendment and go to p. 54, Figure 2-1, for the original size. (Image courtesy Copperwood Resources Inc.)

According to MDEQ officials, neither permit is directly related to recent mining exploration activity in and near the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which is near the proposed Copperwood mine site.**

"None of it is (the proposed Part 632 amendment) is going to affect the Porkies," said Joe Maki, geology specialist for the MDEQ Oil, Gas and Minerals Division (Upper Peninsula office).

View of the Lake of the Clouds, one of the most scenic views in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Porkies). The view to the right of the photo (west and south) could be impeded by the proposed 14-storey-high tailings pile proposed in the original Copperwood Mining permit application submitted by Orvana in 2011 and issued in 2012. They claimed the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) and mill site would not be visible from this overlook but a small clearing and the tops of the TDF dikes might be visible above the trees. (Keweenaw Now file photo)

According to James Caron of MDEQ Water Resources, the renewal permit under Parts 301, 303 and 325 is nearly the same as the original, with the addition of a water intake pipe from Lake Superior (marked in upper left corner of above map). The new permit also includes a slight decrease in wetland impacts, Caron added.

This early map shows the approximate area of the projected Copperwood Project and its proximity to Lake Superior and streams. Click on map for larger version. (Keweenaw Now file map courtesy Jessica Koski)

A June 27, 2018, Public Notice from MDEQ's Water Resources Division states the following: "The applicant proposes to dredge and fill streams and wetlands and dredge and fill bottomlands of Lake Superior for the purpose of constructing a new copper mine including an access road, mine entrance, mill, tailings basin, water intake, and related structures."

The Public Notice summarizes the impacts to streams and wetlands, including impacts of the Tailings Disposal Facility (TDF) construction as follows:

"Stream Impacts: Eleven existing stream crossing culverts will be removed and replaced with new pipe arch culverts of various sizes and lengths to match stream bankfull widths. Three new stream crossing pipe arch culverts will also be installed. These upgraded or new crossings will allow access to the mine site, water intake, mill site, mitigation site and other related facilities. Approximately 16,557 lineal feet of stream channel, including sections of Lehigh Creek and the
West and East Branches of Gipsy Creek, will be abandoned during construction of the tailings disposal facility. Approximately 3,900 lineal feet of stream channel will be constructed to relocate a portion of the Middle Branch Gipsy Creek and approximately 8,560 lineal feet of stream channel
will be constructed to divert surface water around the south and west sides of the tailings disposal facility.

"Wetland Impacts: Approximately 7,295,157 cubic yards of fill will be placed in 43.48 acres of wetland and approximately 35,836 cubic yards of material will be excavated from 14.36 acres of wetlands to construct the main access road, the box cut, the mill site and processing plant, the mitigation access road and creation area, the ore stockpile area, the water intake road, the stream relocations and the tailings disposal facility."

The addition of a Water Intake pipeline is described thus:

"Lake Superior Water Intake: A 2,715 foot long by 18 inch diameter pipeline will be installed in Lake Superior to supply water to the mine. Approximately 7,710 cubic yards of material will be excavated below the ordinary high water mark of Lake Superior to construct the pipeline and infiltration gallery and approximately 2,610 cubic yards of coarse aggregate and 4,770 cubic yards of rip rap will be placed to backfill the pipeline after installation. Approximately 330 cubic yardsof sand and gravel and 40  cubic yards of gravel pack and 20 cubic yards of river rock will be placed around the infiltration gallery."***

Following the public meeting a formal public hearing on the permit application for Part 301, Inland Lakes Streams; Part 303, Wetland Protection; and Part 325, Great Lakes Submerged Lands, will be held. This is a renewal (after 5 years) of the original permit under MDEQ Water Resources.

The comment period on the Water Resources permit ends on July 26 (See UPDATE), and comments during the public hearing will be considered along with written comments, which should reference Submission Number: HND-EQMB-E27HX.

UPDATED: Documents on the Water Resources permit, including their public notice (PN Master) are available here. You may download a document and then click on Add Comment at the top of the page to comment by July 26, 2018. You may also email comments by July 26 to James Caron at

The DEQ shall accept written comment on the Part 632 amendment request until 5 p.m. (EDT), August 14, 2018. Comments may be mailed to MDEQ, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, or e-mail comments to the designated MDEQ mailbox at, including "Copperwood" as the subject.

The Copperwood Mine Permit Amendment Request documents are located on the following MDEQ web page:
NON-FERROUS METALLIC MINING, Recent Developments in Part 632 Projects, Copperwood Project Permit Amendment.

* Click here for the public notice on the July 17 meeting.

** See our April 7, 2017, article, "State, county officials address citizens' concerns about erosion from Highland Copper mining exploration along CR 519 in Porkies."
See also the Feb. 12, 2018, update from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, "Updated: Copperwood Resources to resume winter copper exploration at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park; settlement reached with DEQ on 2017 erosion damage." 

*** For background on the original Copperwood water and air quality permits see our coverage of the 2012 Public Hearing at Gogebic Community College: "MDEQ hearing on Orvana Copperwood air, water quality permits: Part 1, Questions" and "MDEQ public hearing on Orvana Copperwood mine: Part 2."

Monday, July 09, 2018

Guest article: Why We March

Participants in the June 30 "Families Belong Together" march display signs expressing their concerns about immigration policies as they cross the Portage Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock. Organized by Anna Ehl, the author of this article, the local march was one of more than 700 marches across the country by people concerned about family separations at the borders of the U.S. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

By Anna Ehl*

Like most decent Americans, I was horrified and heartbroken to learn about the family separations taking place at the border. As a mother, I found myself lying awake at night, listening to the monitor of my daughter sleeping in the next room and weeping for the parents who were lying awake terrified they would never see their children again, weeping for the babies whose cries for their mothers and fathers would go unanswered.

Anna Ehl, organizer of the June 30 "Families Belong Together" march on the Portage Lift Bridge, is pictured here with her husband, Josh Loar, and their daughter. His sign, in Spanish, means "We are One Family." (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

Seeing the damage done to our community by this storm only drives home how easily this could be any one of us. We are all just one disaster away from being refugees -- dependent upon the kindness of neighbors, strangers, fellow humans for our survival and safety. It doesn't matter who you are or who you voted for or what you think about immigration -- we all have to know in our hearts that stealing children from their parents is wrong. If we must turn people away, we should send them away together as a family. No one deserves to lose their children for the crime of trying to protect them or give them a better life.

A young marcher proudly displays his sign during the march. Young and old marched together across the Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock and back. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

I was also deeply disturbed to learn that the Administration's proposed alternative to family separations is indefinite family detention. Especially in light of the fact that this administration ended the Family Case Management Program that allowed low-risk families to be released and monitored by social workers. It cost the government $36/day per family as opposed to the $775 per child that is being reported for these camps. The Family Case Management program had a 99 percent success rate in getting immigrants to attend every ICE check-in appointment and 100 percent attendance for every hearing in their cases.

Anita and Miguel Levy (in hats) show their opposition to present immigration policies. "People who participated in the march were appalled by the separation of families who are coming from Central American nations trying to get asylum in the United States," Anita told Keweenaw Now. "Asylum seekers are treated as criminals, young children are being separated from their parents and placed in detention centers. Many of the marchers opposed the United States government policy toward immigrants and supported the movement to defend the immigrants and shut down ICE." (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

So for the administration to pretend that these detentions are anything other than punitive is provably false. 100 percent of the families showed up for their immigration hearings -- so we know imprisonment isn't more effective for getting them into court. It cost less than 5 percent of what these detention centers are charging, so it's not about fiscal responsibility. It is purely about funneling money from public coffers into the private prisons that run these centers, and about punishing immigrants and asylum seekers for daring to hope for a better life in our country. It is against international treaties we have signed, it is immoral from a basic human standpoint, and we all have an obligation to speak out against it.**

So, I organized the march (on June 30) across the Portage Lift Bridge. I was pleased that we got nearly 100 people participating in the march. I know turnout would have been greater but many of our marchers got called in to the volunteer center or were still busy with cleanup efforts, which I support wholeheartedly. Many of our marchers also came directly from volunteering in the community or left directly to go back to volunteering.

Susan Burack of Hancock -- a longtime activist supporter of peace, justice and human rights -- told Keweenaw Now why she joined this march: "My heart breaks hearing about mothers and children being separated," she said. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

The great people of the Copper Country have hearts large enough to show compassion for their neighbors across the Keweenaw as well as their neighbors across the borders -- which is why most of us are active in both this cause and the cleanup in our own community. No one who comes to us seeking help in their time of need should have to suffer, which is why we march for our neighbors at the border and volunteer for our neighbors at home.

Inset photo: Guest author Anna Ehl, organizer of the local June 30 "Families Belong Together" march across the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

More photos:

Nearly 100 people participated in the local June 30 "Families Belong Together" march across the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Allan Baker)

Participants in the June 30 march display signs to passing traffic on the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

For many Americans this sign says it all. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

This marcher's sign is a reminder that many Copper Country residents are descendants of Finnish immigrants. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

These marchers remind us that many people consider separation of immigrant parents from their children a moral issue. (Photo © and courtesy Allan Baker)


* Guest author Anna Ehl is a local Copper Country resident.

** Click here for the June 24, 2018, NBC News article about the Family Case Management program. Click here for the June 20, 2018, NBC News article on this difference in cost.

See, on The Atlantic, photos of thousands who participated in "Families Belong Together" marches in cities and towns across the country on June 30, 2018.