July 2010 Newsletter
July 12, 2010
Dear WRPC Member,
On July 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed Kennecott that they were not required to obtain an underground injection permit for their mine’s wastewater discharge system. Kennecott had already decided that they didn’t need such a permit and asserted that they had all the permits they needed to begin mine construction of the Eagle mine. The Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment accepted Kennecott’s assertion and gave the go-ahead for bulldozing the site.
This rubber-stamping of Kennecott’s mine permit by state and federal agencies is reminiscent of the federal Minerals Management Service failure to evaluate BP’s Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The “capture” of regulatory agencies by the companies that are supposed to be regulated has already produced the largest environmental disaster in American history.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) recently concluded a federal hearing on the BP disaster and made some parallels with the Eagle Project. “Both BP and Kennecott’s parent company, London-based Rio Tinto, have earned reputations for their willingness to cut corners on safety and environmental safeguards to improve their bottom lines,” said Stupak. While BP has been pressured to establish a $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the oil spill, no comparable funds are in place for a disaster at the Eagle mine. “I remain concerned that Kennecott’s $17 million assurance bond does not provide nearly enough funding to address potential contamination that may continue years after Kennecott leaves the U.P. Like BP, Kennecott—not the taxpayers—should be responsible for the cost of cleaning up any pollution they create,” said Stupak.
In contrast to its rubber-stamping of the Kennecott permit, the EPA blasted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for its environmental impact statement for the PolyMet copper mine near Hoyt Lakes on the Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota. The EPA said the report didn’t consider the issue of setting aside money for cleanup after the mine closes, and that the report didn’t adequately address water quality threats, endangered species and wetland destruction. These deficiencies have prompted the state and federal agencies responsible for the EIS to prepare a supplemental draft EIS to address these shortcomings.
These and other issues surrounding mining in the Great Lakes region will be discussed at the 3rd Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering from July 30-August 1 in Baraga and Marquette, Michigan. This year’s gathering (see schedule below) is being hosted by a new group. Oshkinawe-Ogichidaag Akiing (“New Warriors for the Earth”). Co-sponsors of the event include the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Save the Wild UP, Western Mining Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, Yellow Dog Summer, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, Keepers of the Water and Northern Michigan University. For more information, consult the website of Stand for the Land.
Al Gedicks, Exec. Sec.