ICT Coverage of Eagle Rock Protest

From ICT:

As the spirits whispered through the towering pines on 40 mile per hour winds atop sacred Eagle Rock, American Indian warrior Levi Tadgerson said, “you can feel our relatives and the spirits with us.”

He stood on the cliff’s edge looking out upon northern Michigan’s Yellow Dog Plains for another approaching storm – literally and figuratively – as Tadgerson’s fellow warriors are trying to stop an international mining giant from destroying the site where Ojibwa ceremonies have taken place as long as elders can remember.

In late April, Kennecott Eagle Minerals began site preparation work for its sulfide mine called the Eagle Project. The entrance to the nickel and copper mine will be built at sacred Eagle Rock.

“We are defending the water, we are defending our treaty rights and our right to practice our culture,” said Tadgerson, who describes himself as “an Anishinaabe man who loves and respects the environment.

“We’re defending our right to live a healthy life and have our kids live a healthy life.”

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and numerous environment groups are worried because sulfuric acid is a byproduct of sulfide mining plus several companies have announced plans for dozens of similar mines.

Kennecott says environmental protection is a major concern, but opponents say the way the company has operated other mines doesn’t show it.

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Freep Editorial on the Kennecott Mine and Its Impact on Indian Sacred Sites

From the Freep:

UP mine threatens sacred tribal rights


For far too long, the voices of affected and concerned Ojibwa people have been ignored in the midst of Kennecott’s proposed Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I am a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, and we did not invite Kennecott, a subsidiary of multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, to come into our ceded homelands and reservation territory to explore for minerals, blast into our sacred site, and leave behind a dying legacy of colonialism.

Indigenous peoples throughout the world are on the front lines of similar pressures to develop resources within their homelands, with little regard for their aboriginal rights. There is little mainstream media attention bringing awareness to these issues, despite a global movement for indigenous rights and numerous case studies on the impacts of mining and other extractive industries on indigenous communities.

In addition to the proposed Eagle Mine, Rio Tinto’s intentions to open up six additional mine sites, and increasing mineral exploration throughout the entire Lake Superior basin, are threatening Ojibwa treaty rights. Through treaties with the federal government, Ojibwa leaders ensured permanent reservations and retained rights to hunt, fish and gather on ceded lands. If the water and land are polluted from harmful mining, how will our treaty rights and cultural values be honored and continue into the future?

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Kennecott Mine Claims It Doesn’t Need EPA Permit


MARQUETTE COUNTY — According to Kennecott Minerals, construction for the Eagle Mining Project might start within the next few months.

With modifictions to their water infiltration system, company officials now claim they don’t need a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, but not everyone agrees.

One major obstacle stood in the way of constructing the controversial nickel and copper mine in Marquette county: its underground water discharge system. The system required a permit from the epa- but kennecott says moving the system above ground has changed everything.

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State Court Challenge to Kennecott Eagle Mine Permit Filed

From the NYTs:

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Four groups have filed a lawsuit hoping to overturn a state permit for a nickel and copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, saying the project does not meet legal requirements for protecting the environment.

The opponents said Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.’s application didn’t prove the project would avoid damaging rivers, groundwater and other natural resources in the Yellow Dog Plains region of Marquette County, an undeveloped area prized for its woods and streams.

They particularly fear the mine’s ceiling could collapse beneath the nearby Salmon Trout River, a Lake Superior tributary home to the rare coaster brook trout.

”The evidence is compelling, the facts are strong and the law is squarely on our side,” Michelle Halley, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said Monday. Also joining the suit are the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Huron Mountain Club.

The circuit court lawsuit was filed in Washtenaw County, where the wildlife federation’s Great Lakes regional office is located.

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News Coverage of Kennecott Mine Permit Change

From Interlochen Public Radio:

Kennecott Minerals wants to change the way it releases treated wastewater at its Eagle Rock Mine near Marquette. Instead of covering filtration pipes with soil, Kennecott wants to use thick Styrofoam insulation around the pipes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment calls it a minor modification, but it may mean the company won’t need a federal permit. If pipes are covered with soil the EPA considers that an underground injection system.

A spokeswoman for the National Wildlife Federation says a federal review would give more attention to tribal issues. Indian tribes maintain that blasting an opening for the mine will degrade a traditional sacred place at Eagle Rock. The state dismissed that argument in granting Kennecott a permit. The Wildlife Federation plans to appeal that decision in Circuit Court.

U.P. Public Meeting on Kennecott Mine

From tv via A.K.:

ISHPEMING TWP. — Wednesday night, a public hearing was held at Westwood High School to discuss Kennecott’s Woodland Road Project. The road would connect Kennecott’s planned mine site to US-41.

The route is designed to avoid large population areas. Tonight’s public hearing was meant to be informative for both the community and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, or DNRE. With the Kennecott Mine being such a huge controversy in the U.P., giving the public an open microphone, led to an interesting evening.

Within minutes of the hearing, one environmental activist was escorted out of the auditorium for disruptive behavior. But the interruption didn’t stop the hearing. Only allotted three minutes to speak, community members made sure their opinions were heard. Continue reading

Record of Decision in Kennecott Mine Adminstrative Adjudication

Here: Kennecott FDO

Of note, the last paragraph on page 8 reads:

Of the six features specifically enumerated in Rule 202(2)(p), four unquestionably occur in structures: residential dwellings, schools, hospitals and government buildings. The other two, places of business and places of worship, could be reasonably construed as not requiring a structure. However, Rule 202(2)(p) contains a catch-all provision that the PFD did not address: “or other “buildings used for human occupancy all or part of the year.” R 425.202(2)(p). This inclusion of this phrase means an EIA must identify all buildings, including those used for the six enumerated features, in the proposed mining area and affected area. Consistent with the rules of statutory construction discussed above, I conclude, as a Matter of Law, Rule 202(2)(p) applies only to buildings used for human occupancy. I further conclude, as a Matter of Law, because Eagle Rock is not a building used for human occupancy, there is no basis to require the EIA identify and describe the feature as a “place of worship.” Concomitantly, the EIA submitted by Kennecott complies in all respects with § 62505(2)(b) and Rule 202, and I so conclude, as a Matter of Law.

Emphasis added.

So DEQ seems to have concluded that an outdoor American Indian sacred site is not a “place of worship” under the relevant law because it is not inside a building (as “used for human occupancy”). In other words, no American Indian place of worship can ever be a “place of worship” unless it’s inside a building.

Kennecott Mine Permits Okayed

From Michigan Messenger (h/t to A.K.) [DEQ press release here]:

Two days before the DEQceases to exist and a week after its director stepped down, DEQ moved to wrap up a long standing fight over permits for a planned nickel sulfide mine by concluding that only buildings may be considered “places of worship.”

A rock that is sacred toAnishnabe people need not be considered when issuing a mining permit because state law only recognizes buildings as places of worship, the Department of Environmental Quality announced Thursday.

This decision cleared the way for DEQ to finalize permits for a mine planned for public land on the Yellow Dog Plain northwest of Marquette.

The resolution comes at a time of great tumult for the department. Director Steven Chester resigned last week, and the department is slated to come under the leadership of DNR director Rebecca Humphries when it is rolled into the new Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment on Jan. 17.

For seven years the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company, a subsidiary of London-based Rio Tinto, has been trying to develop the mine project. The company promised hundreds of construction and mining jobs but has faced opposition from groups that are concerned that acid drainage from the mine will damage the nearby Salmon Trout River and Lake Superior.

The National Wildlife FederationKeweenaw Bay Indian CommunityYellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and the Huron Mountain Club together filed an administrative appeal of DEQ’s 2007 approval of mining and groundwater discharge permits for the mine. Continue reading