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Aerial view of Menominee River
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Today on Stateside, Samuel Stanley Jr. officially took his place as Michigan State University's 21st president earlier this month. We talk to Stanley about his goals and plans for his first year in office. Plus, we talk about the ways climate change is already impacting human health in Michigan. 

African American man with facial recognition scan
Pro-stock Studio / Adobe Stock

 

 


Today on Stateside, another attempt by the RTA to bring coordinated mass transit to Southeast Michigan. Plus, the Detroit Police Department’s attempts to fund facial recognition surveillance sparks criticism. 

Michigan Capitol Building
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Senate passed a bill to form a mining advisory committee, which will recommend ways for the state's mining industry to grow.

Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) introduced the bill. She says it was inspired by Minnesota's approach to growing the mining industry.

Aaron Selbig/Interlochen Public Radio

Mining companies would be able to modify onsite facilities without an environmental permit amendment under legislation that has passed the Michigan House.

Lawmakers voted 63-45 on Tuesday to advance the bill to grant companies more flexibility in moving and adjusting their mining sites and buildings. The proposed change would allow mining companies to modify the facilities provided they give Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality a 30-day notice and if the changes don't add environmental risk.

A copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
Richie Diesterheft / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some environmentalists are worried a bill moving through the state Legislature would give mining companies too much leeway.

Under the bill, mining operators would be able to make certain changes to their permits without going through an amendment process or public review. Instead, they’d be required to give written notice of modifications to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Wystan / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

104 years ago this month, some 400 miners and their families were at a Christmas Eve celebration in Calumet in the Upper Peninsula. 73 men, women and children would not live to see Christmas Day.

We know this tragedy as the Italian Hall Disaster and the 1913 Massacre, born out of the depths of a long and bitter miners' strike.

A copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.
Richie Diesterheft / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law changes to the regulation of Michigan copper mines.

Legislation enacted Tuesday establishes separate regulations for small native copper mines that developers are eyeing in the western Upper Peninsula. The law also does not allow for local governments to regulate mining activities.

The sponsor, Republican Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba, says it's not economically feasible to have smaller mines regulated the same as bigger ones and doing so could hurt job growth.

This map shows land ownership and location of the exploratory copper drilling project.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan Radio's ongoing MI Curious series gives listeners a chance to ask a question. Then, we do our best to get an answer.

The next question comes from Daniel Moerman from Superior Township, near Ann Arbor. He won our last voting round.

Menominee River
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s first potential new gold mine since the late 1800s now has three of four permits it needs to open.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality issued a surface water permit for the Back Forty Project this month.

That proposal is an open-pit sulfide mine located along the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. A group of investors, led by the Canadian mining company Aquila, plans to mine the site for gold, copper and zinc.

chumlee10 / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A large Toronto-based mining company has started expanding one of its projects near Marquette. But it will need approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality if it wants to finish the tunnel it started building in July. 

Lundin Mining is asking the state agency to change its current permit to allow for the completion of the tunnel, which would connect its Eagle Mine site to a mineral deposit nearby. The deposit has large amounts of nickel and copper ore, but Lundin is still unsure whether the area would be profitable to mine.

Ruth (Maki) Powell

 

Ninety years ago yesterday brought the worst mining accident in Michigan history.

The Barnes-Hecker Mine disaster on November 3, 1926, killed 51 miners. The disaster rocked the community west of Ishpeming.

Mary Tippett’s grandfather was killed in the disaster. It was his first day on the job.

“We’re profiting off of it,” Ramsdell said. “The minerals are going into the products that we’re living off of and benefiting off of, and the Congolese people are left with a country that has been wracked with war for almost 20-plus years.”
screengrab of When Elephants Fight

 

A country that is one of the most mineral-rich in the world is also one of the world's poorest nations.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been rocked by war in recent years, and although the war is over, the conflict and suffering have yet to end.

A Michigan-based filmmaker is out with a new exploration of how the minerals in our electronic devices are funding the turmoil in that African country.

user Alchemist-hp / wikimedia commons

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has proposed approving a permit for a company that plans to develop a gold, zinc and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The agency announced the decision Friday about the mining permit for Aquila Resources for the Back Forty Project in Menominee County. The project also includes a proposed processing facility in Lake Township.

A public hearing is planned for October 6.

The MDEQ says it determined the application meets the requirements for approval under Michigan's mining law.

The Empire Mine
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.

The Marquette area recently received some painful news when Lourenco Goncalves, the CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources announced that the Empire Mine would be closing by the end of the year. More than 400 workers from the region are affected by the announcement that iron ore production, that has been a big part of the area’s economy for a long time, will end.

Don Harrison/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  One of the most striking features of the waterfront in Marquette is the Upper Harbor ore dock. Built in 1912, the pocket dock is still in use today.

Maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse says the city of Marquette began because of the discovery of iron ore back in 1844 in the Ishpeming and Negaunee area, about 20 miles west of Marquette. The city developed as the shipping port for the delivery of iron ore.

claus+ flcker.com

A controversial Upper Peninsula land deal appears closer to approval.

A Canadian mining company wants to buy land and mineral rights on ten thousand acres of state land in the Upper Peninsula. 

Graymont wants to mine limestone in the area northwest of St. Ignace. The company plans surface and underground mines.  

Flickr user Ian Geoffrey Stimpson / Flickr

Michigan has always been rich in natural resources. And now potash, the mineral element from which potassium comes, has been found in the state as well.

Dan Calabrese, who recently wrote about what the discovery of potash means for Michigan's economy, says the element could have big benefits for Michigan, because it is a crucial element of all forms of agricultural fertilizer.

Graymont is seeking to buy thousands of acres of state-owned land and mineral rights for a proposed limestone mining operation near Rexton.
User clau+ / flickr.com

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.

LUNDIN MINING

UPDATED: 12/15/14 at 12:00 pm

MARQUETTE (AP) - State regulators will answer questions from the public about a proposed surface water discharge permit for the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill in the Upper Peninsula.

  The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is conducting a public hearing on the permit January 13th, 2015. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Westwood High School Auditorium in Ishpeming.

Lundin Mining

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by state environmental regulators to allow construction of a nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula.

A three-judge panel unanimously sided with the Department of Environmental Quality, which issued mining and groundwater discharge permits to Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. The Marquette County mine is now owned by Lundin Mining Corp.

DEQ officials approved a mining permit for the project in 2007, drawing legal challenges from environmentalists and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. A DEQ administrative law judge and a circuit court judge affirmed the department's decisions, and opponents took the case to the Court of Appeals.

The mine has been constructed and is scheduled to begin producing minerals this fall.

Areas in question for the land deal in Michigan's UP.
rexton.graymontmicrosite.com

Picture this: You live in a corner of the Upper Peninsula that is full of natural beauty. But the population in your town is shrinking and aging, even to the point where it's hard to find police officers and firefighters because everyone's just getting older.

And there's little in the way of economic opportunity.

Now here comes a huge Canadian company that wants to buy 10,000 acres of state-managed forest land to build a massive limestone mining operation. There's the prospect of massive amounts of money and the hope of jobs.

And there's the fear of losing the natural beauty of your corner of the UP.

What to do?

That's the real-life dilemma happening in the Rexton area of the Upper Peninsula.

Keith Matheny is a writer with the Detroit Free Press and he's been following this story. Keith joined us today.

*Listen to the interview above.

Lyndon Township

A Ready Mix concrete company wants to dig for sand and gravel on a site north of Chelsea, Michigan. McCoig Materials is planning the mine right in the middle of the Pinckney and Waterloo State Recreation Areas (see the map above for the location of the proposed site).

The plan has drawn opposition from hundreds of residents and other advocates who fear the mine could affect water resources in the area. They also are concerned about the truck traffic that would roll through downtown Chelsea.

Lyndon Township officials will vote on whether the mine should move forward. A meeting has been scheduled next month. From the township:

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a case trying to stop the development of a new copper and nickel mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The high court let stand a lower court's rejection of the Huron Mountain Club's arguments that the mine needs federal permits.

The Club owns a 19,000-acre wildlife and nature preserve that includes an 11-mile stretch of the Salmon Trout River.

The Eagle Mine is located a few miles upstream, and some mining will take place under the river.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

A Ready-Mix concrete company, McCoig Materials, wants to open up a mine on a site north of Chelsea. The two parcels of land they want to mine are in between the Waterloo and Pinckney Recreation areas. This part of southeast Michigan has a lot of little lakes and unique natural areas.

McCoig Materials wants to operate the mine for 22 to 30 years and remove 11 million tons of sand and gravel.

People who live on the lakes nearby have been raising concerns about that.

Mary Mandeville spends summers in her cottage at Island Lake.

“Just to the west of us is where the proposed gravel mine would be putting in their operations. We’re very concerned about the impact on the environment, on the water table level. We’re concerned about air quality with all the dust from the dumping of the gravel into the trucks.”

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The owner of the controversial Eagle mine project in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Rio Tinto PLC, says it will sell the project to Canada's Lundin Mining Corp. for $325 million.

The deal will require approval from regulators.

Rio Tinto is still building the mine which they say is 55% complete. Construction started in 2010.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan population increases for the first time in seven years

Michigan gained population in 2012 for the first time in seven years, the Detroit News reports.

'This halts a decade of population losses, but population is still growing far slower than other states. U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday show the state grew at just 0.1 percent, adding 6,559 residents to 9,883,360.'

Snow dumps 14 inches in northern Michigan

"A snowstorm hitting the Midwest has dumped more than 10 inches of snow in northern Michigan and knocked out power to at least 60,000 state electricity customers. The weather service says snowfall totals could reach 13 inches in northern Michigan and 14 inches in northern lower Michigan before the storm exits Michigan Friday," the Associated Press reports.

Snyder signs personal property tax and mining legislation

"Governor Rick Snyder has signed a plan to phase out the state’s tax on business and industrial equipment. Manufacturers, in particular, say the tax discourages investment in Michigan. Snyder also approved an overhaul of how mining in Michigan is taxed. The new tax on mining production will replace a hodgepodge of taxes paid by mines," Rick Pluta reports.

michigan.gov

The company Orvana Resources is one step closer to getting the approval it needs to build a new mine. The Copperwood Mine is proposed for a site north of the town of Wakefield in the western U.P. The state is reviewing the company’s final environmental permit.

The Department of Environmental Quality has already given the company mining, wastewater and air permits.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

The boom and bust nature of the mining industry is nothing new to residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And while recent decades have seen the region's once-prosperous iron and copper mines falling further and further into "bust" territory, the last few years have seen a resurgence of interest from companies hoping to pull valuable ore from this remote part of the state.

Huron Mountain Club files federal lawsuit against Upper Peninsula mine

May 8, 2012

A private club in the Upper Peninsula has filed suit to stop the construction of a new mine in Marquette County.  It’s the first federal lawsuit to attempt to stop the project. 

The nickel and copper mine, owned by Kennecott Eagle Minerals, has received permits from the state.  But the Huron Mountain Club says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to sign off too.

The club owns nearly 20,000 acres of forest downstream from the mine on the Salmon Trout River.

The lawsuit says sulfuric acid produced by sulfide mining could pollute the river, and the club is "horror-struck" by the prospect of the watershed collapsing because part of the mine will be dug directly underneath it.

The lawsuit also says the federal government needs to consider the potential for damage to Eagle Rock, a site near the entrance to the mine that is sacred to American Indians.

The mine has been under construction since 2010.

Attorney for the Huron Mountain Club Rick Addison expects Kennecott will argue that it is too late to bring up this issue, but he says it was the company’s decision to build the mine without the necessary permits.

"The lateness argument has no resonance to me, it’s simply the last refuge of the environmental scoundrel," said Addison.

In a written statement, Kennecott says the mine has been extensively reviewed and already survived multiple legal challenges.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals

A Central Upper Peninsula Indian tribe is asking the United Nations to help curb sulfide mining in the Upper Great Lakes.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) recently sent the United Nations a document outlining how governments are locating and planning mines on Indian land without getting input from tribes.

Tribal officials say that infringes on their treaty rights. 

KBIC member and document co-author Jessica Koski said the tribe needs to have a seat at the table.

“This is our traditional territory.  This is where we hunt, we fish, we gather, and those are rights that are maintained in treaties,” said Koski.

Koski said the mines create the equivalent of battery acid, which drains into nearby watersheds.

“That is a huge problem. There is no example in the entire world of a sulfide mine that hasn’t polluted water resources. And this is an issue that would last for generations and centuries in the Great Lakes region,” said Koski.

Mining company Kennecott Minerals said its design contains safety components that will keep Lake Superior from being polluted.

Supporters of the mine say the area badly needs the jobs.

But Koski said the mine currently being built in Marquette County is slated to last only five years, and the U.P. needs economic opportunities that are long-term.

“And that could be tourism, recreation, agriculture—local sustainable economies where we can thrive into the future and not have this ‘boom and bust,’ which is a very well-known phenomenon with the mining industry, which is why the U.P. is so desperate for another gasp of another mining boom,” said Koski.

Koski also said a sacred site near the nickel and copper mine has been fenced off and degraded. Mining company Kennecott Minerals says the tribe still has access to Eagle Rock.

Koski said their U.N. document aims to educate the public about state and federal governments approving mines on Native land without consulting tribes.

It comes on the heels of the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The U.S. approved the multi-nation “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People” two years ago.  But a U.N. human rights official who visited the U.S. last week said more needs to be done to heal historic wounds, including a return of Native American lands to tribes.

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