Environmentalists express outrage over new mine exploration

[Information Courtesy of Save the Wild U.P. in response to ‘New mine site could soon be available for Lundin Mining’]

MARQUETTE — Grassroots environmental group Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) is expressing outrage following news that Lundin Mining will begin immediate construction of extensive new tunnels connecting Eagle’s existing orebody with a new target, Eagle East — all without public input, or the permit revisions that should be required under Michigan’s Nonferrous Metallic Mining Regulations, known as Part 632.

“Lundin’s press release states that, ‘The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has determined that no modifications are required to Eagle’s Part 632 mining permit at this time,’ which means, if it’s true, that somehow it is acceptable to build a (double) tunnel spanning approximately 1.5 miles, thousands of feet deep, with no knowledge of its stability or the potential impacts to water,” said Michelle Halley, Marquette attorney and Save the Wild U.P. advisory board member.

“Just a few of the obvious questions that should be answered before such a project begins include: Will the rock removed be acid­generating? If so, how will it be handled and stored? What will happen to it post­mining? Will the tunnel need de­watering? If so, will the water require treating? If so, can the existing water treatment facility handle the volume and constituents of the water? Where will it be discharged? Can the discharge aquifer handle that quantity of discharge? Will this tunnel be back­filled, post­mining? Will the tunnel need reinforcing to be stable and safe for workers? How will the need to ensure the safety of this tunnel affect the financial assurance required by the state? If Lundin’s press release is accurate, the Michigan DEQ is asleep at the wheel. It wouldn’t be the first time,” said Halley.

According to Wednesday’s press release (“Eagle Mine provides exploration update on Eagle East”) from Lundin Mining, “A Preliminary Economic Assessment on Eagle East was also released and the company intends to complete a full feasibility study and permit review. If mined, the life of mine of Eagle would be extended by one year.”

“This is bad news for the Yellow Dog Plains. ​Extending the life of the mine definitely increases the environmental degradations,” said Save the Wild U.P. director, Alexandra Maxwell. “Constructing another underground mine 1.5 miles from Eagle’s current operation will increase the draw­down of groundwater. Marquette County’s trout streams rely on clean, cold groundwater. Is Lundin or the DEQ concerned that these degradations affect not only the Salmon Trout, but its neighboring river the Yellow Dog? The extension of mining activities will now degrade two beloved Upper Peninsula rivers.”

“Eagle is grasping to survive in a failing commodities market and is displaying the classic definition of “high grading.” This is right out of the mining industry playbook: “adjust” or “expand” your mining operations, target only the highest grade ores for extraction, make more money in the short­term to stay afloat in uncertain economic conditions. This is a shortsighted risk and a huge gamble with the health of our environment,” said Maxwell.

Lundin’s press release further states: “Access to Eagle East is planned with a spiral ramp from the bottom of Eagle Mine, making use of the existing ventilation infrastructure. Lundin Mining has authorized ramp development to begin in July.”

Targeting a single deep high­grade lobe of the Eagle East orebody is part of a corporate ‘cut­and­run’ strategy. Retired mining engineer Jack Parker’s analysis showed, early on, that Eagle Mine was guilty of high­grading their orebody.

Parker stated as early as 2012 that they “plan to leave behind an additional billion dollars’ worth of lower grade ore, which could extend the life of the mine around 16 years” — an irresponsible mining practice.

“All of this will extend Eagle Mine’s operating life by a single year? Seriously? Three years of tunneling to expand Eagle’s mine life by one year? The proposed ramp and twin access tunnels will be far deeper than the existing Eagle Mine operations, and Lundin knows next to nothing about the rock or the hydrology at this depth, so constructing this extensive tunnel exponentially increases Eagle Mine’s risks. The DEQ should recalculate Lundin’s financial assurances immediately — before allowing any new construction to begin,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president.

According to Lundin’s press release: “The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has determined that no modifications are required to Eagle’s Part 632 mining permit at this time.”

Heideman is outraged. “We’re very disappointed that the DEQ has once again circumvented due process for industry’s sake. Each time Eagle Mine’s Part 632 Permit is modified, the public is informed that these changes are “insignificant” and no public hearing is held. Clearly, the DEQ doesn’t have a working definition for “significant change.” The DEQ’s process is not working. The community has significant concerns but is not allowed to participate.”

“Eagle is building a tunnel that would stretch from the US­41 highway roundabout to NMU’s University Center – and back! It will take three years of drilling, through unknown geology, with no hydrological data, and Lundin states they’re unsure if they will mine Eagle East once they’ve finished building the tunnel? Ridiculous. Worst of all – none of this results in a modification to Eagle’s mining permit? This is stunningly egregious. No other industry would be permitted to construct something like this without conducting environmental studies, and securing significant permit revisions,” said Heideman.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to defending wild places and clean water of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining.