Next month, a decision could be made on whether to sell thousands of acres in the Upper Peninsula to a Canadian mining company, Graymont Inc.
It would be the largest sale of public land in Michigan’s history.
Kathy English lives in Chippewa County. She loves her Upper Peninsula home and the woods that surround it. She also lives next to the proposed site of a massive open pit mine.
“It’s pristine. It’s forest. It’s hunting lands. It’s hiking. It’s everything, and [the mining] would destroy that area," says English.
Sale includes mineral rights trade
Graymont, a British Columbia-based limestone mining company, wants to acquire roughly 10,000 acres spread over parts of three counties in the Upper Peninsula.
The company would trade mineral rights on some land in Michigan it already owns with the Department of Natural Resources. It would also buy land and mineral rights for thousands more acres.
Paul Stoll is a plant manager with Graymont.
“I know 10,000 acres sounds like a big number and honestly it is a lot," he says. "But because we do look at the long term, we’re looking at a project as in generations, a 100-plus years in time, you need a larger area to have the amount of reserves that you need to operate for that amount of time."
Stoll says the company has been looking for a specific quantity and quality of limestone in parts of the eastern UP. And it’s found it near Rexton, which is located between St. Ignace and Newberry.
Graymont would extract the limestone with both open pit and underground mines.
Limestone mining has been going on in Michigan for more than 100 years. And there are some old limestone mines in the region where Graymont wants to dig.
DNR will decide if land sale will go through
Keith Creagh, the director of the Department of Natural Resources, will have the final say on the proposed land sale. That decision could come at the February 12 meeting of the state Natural Resources Commission.
But within the DNR, several objections to the sale have cropped up.
Bill O’Neill is the chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. He says the concerns include economic ones:
“That’s an important consideration. Especially in the east UP where we could use some rural economic development, if you will. But there were also some environmental concerns about this too. There were some concerns about wetlands. There’s also some concerns about trail connectivity. Trails are an important part of life up there and we want to make sure those trails remain connected,” he says.
DNR officials say Graymont’s offer also doesn’t pay enough royalties to the state for the mineral rights to the limestone. The state also wants to be paid for timber and other minerals that may be damaged or lost as a result of Graymont’s limestone mining.
Graymont officials say they are willing to continue to talk with DNR officials about their concerns.
A public hearing in Newberry tomorrow, Wednesday January 28th, will give people a chance to weigh in.
Some people might want a shot at the 50 or so jobs Graymont says its mining will create over time. Others might object to the company’s plans on environmental grounds.
For Kathy English, it’s simple. If Graymont moves in next door, she’ll have to move out, " 'cause I live right there. I live right on that road. There’s no way we can stay there.”
Wednesday's public hearing:
The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the High School Auditorium at Tahquamenon Area Schools located at 700 Newberry Ave. in Newberry.
How to comment:
Aside from the public meeting in Newberry, comments can be made at upcoming NRC meetings or via email to DNR-GraymontProposalComments@michigan.gov. Mailed comments can be sent to the Roscommon Customer Service Center, ATTN: Kerry Wieber, 8717 N. Roscommon Road, Roscommon, MI 48653.