Environment Picture

Controversial UP mine gets state approvals, faces NWF lawsuit

A controversial proposed nickel mine in the Upper Peninsula (UP) faces administrative appeals and a lawsuit after it received approvals from both the Michigan departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources.

The National Wildlife Federation is leading the legal challenges to the proposed Kennecott Minerals Co. plan to extract minerals from underneath the headwaters of the Salmon Trout and Yellow Dog rivers near Big Bay.

Michigan’s major environmental organizations, including the Michigan Environmental Council, opposed issuing the mining permits. Kennecott’s plan does not adequately ensure that dangerous waste from the mine will not poison the rivers and travel downstream into Lake Superior, MEC and its allies contend.

The nickel mine, which would generate hundreds of thousands of tons of acid-leaching waste rock from underneath the Yellow Dog Plains, would be the only mine of its type in Michigan. Several other potential UP mine sites are pending, as companies wait to see how stringently state officials apply environmental safeguards to Kennecott.

“This sets the bar for what may well be a rush to extract minerals from across the Upper Peninsula,” said Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation.

Environmental groups that were instrumental in forging new regulations regarding the risky sulfide mining in 2006 expressed disappointment.

“The legislation requires a company to demonstrate that it can undertake this inherently dangerous type of mining safely,” said James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council. “Kennecott’s permit application falls short of meeting that test.”
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