Environment Picture

New report: Mining law loopholes put rivers, resources at risk

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation and Ecojustice Canada concludes that gaps, inconsistencies and loopholes in U.S. state and Canadian provincial laws are leaving the Great Lakes and other natural resources vulnerable to a new wave of mining activity sweeping the Upper Great Lakes states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and Canadian province of Ontario.

According to the NWF:

“Weak laws and lax enforcement undermine efforts to protect our water, wildlife and communities from this dangerous form of mining,” said Michelle Halley, National Wildlife Federation attorney. “There is an urgent need for the region to address these issues now or likely face decades of contamination and clean-up.”

Read the report at: www.nwf.org/MiningReport.

The report examines state and provincial laws and their adequacy in overseeing a type of mining new to the region that has proven to be devastating to natural resources in parts of the western United States and Canada. So-called sulfide mining seeks to extract precious metals from sulfide rock formations—a process that produces mine waste that turns water into battery acid, devastating water resources and fish and wildlife habitat. Mines out West have been cited for hundreds of violations of the Clean Water Act.

The National Wildlife Federation and Ecojustice—with the help of outside panels of experts—analyzed state and provincial statutes, regulations and implementation in the areas of: regulatory scope, review process, enforcement, program resources, and reporting and official statements.

The report reveals that, across the region, laws do not offer adequate protections: The report assigns passing grades in only two out of 20 categories. Failing scores were assigned in six categories, with the remaining dozen receiving a “fair” score.

“As this report makes clear,” said Halley, “the status quo is not acceptable. The upper Great Lakes region is poorly positioned to adequately regulate the onslaught of new sulfide mining. Every state and province that we assessed needs to be doing a better job.”

The National Wildlife Federation is not alone in its concern about sulfide mining near the shores of Lake Superior.

Michigan ranked considerably lower than its U.S. counterparts.

Brad Garmon, director of conservation and emerging issues at the Michigan Environmental Council, expressed hope for change as a result of the analysis.

“Through this process of identifying the flaws in sulfide mine permitting, regulation and enforcement, we hope the administration and the legislature can take steps now to ensure protection of the Great Lakes,” he said. “Our expectation was that Michigan’s new law would have required a new generation of mines to be designed and operated in a manner that would truly protect our natural resources. Their implementation of the law to date has been disappointing.”
-National Wildlife Federation
RELATED TOPICS: land use
© Copyright Michigan Environmental Council, All rights reserved