Archive for the ‘Kennecot Mine’ Category

Coming soon: Michigan’s version of the BP disaster

June 4, 2010

A company with a history of polluting that wants to take valuable resources from deep underground.

An industrial  extraction operation with high risks to hundreds of miles of coastline, spectacular waters, a vibrant fishery…. and human life.

An agency that promotes the industry rather than regulating it.

No contingency plan if (when) the operation goes wrong.

Sound familiar?

I’m not just talking about the BP oil spill. The same scenario is playing out right here in Michigan. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Corp. is about to start digging for nickel and other minerals underneath the headwaters of the U.P’s Salmon Trout River, which runs through the largest stand of old growth forest east of the Mississippi and into Lake Superior. Kennecott plans to blast through a sacred Native American site, Eagle Rock, into sulfide ore bodies that produce acid mine drainage when they come into contact with air and water….. which inevitably they will do. This operation not only is likely to scar this magnificent landscape for hundreds of years. It also has a significant risk –according to the state’s own experts – of a mine collapse, endangering human life and draining the river.

What’s Kennecott’s plan if any of these disasters come to pass? It doesn’t have one.

This mine was vetted and recommended for approval by the Michigan Office of Geological Survey, part of the DNRE and the state equivalent of the now-infamous U.S. Minerals Management Service.


Well, the head of the Survey’s mining team called the mining project “my baby” and identified Kennecott as his “customer.”

During the application process, he admitted that he concealed an expert memorandum that reported on the risk of mine collapse, after which he was suspended …. and then reinstated as head of the mining team after an internal state investigation said he was motivated by ignorance, not malfeasance. (Well, that’s a relief, right?) Another member of the state’s mining team formed a business partnership with Kennecott employees to offer mining services to the private sector (the partnership was dissolved after it became public).  Finally, the Governor’s UP representative who helped her formulate her position on the mine has also left government service to work for….. you guessed it:  Kennecott. The mining team recommended approval to the Michigan DEQ before it merged with the DNR to form the DNRE. And just days before that merger – perhaps to avoid tarring the new DNRE with this terrible decision – a mid-level DEQ staff member gave final approval to the operation of the mine.

And we thought MMS was corrupt.

NWF and its partner organizations (Yellow Dog Preserve, Keewenaw Bay Indian Community, and Huron Mountain Club) have filed multiple lawsuits to stop the mine.  So far, we’ve only slowed it down, but the major litigation is just beginning.

Meanwhile, members of the tribe and local residents are taking matters into their own hands, camping on Eagle Rock to stop Kennecott from destroying it. Several have been arrested, but they keep at it. And yesterday, over 100 people rallied against the mine on the steps of the state capitol building. Read the latest on these activists at Or check out Save the Wild UP’s website,

I’ll be writing about this travesty more often, now that the state has approved it and the action on the ground is heating up. To read a more detailed history, check out NWF’s sulfide mining web page.

Or even better, watch the movie! NWF has co-produced an award-winning documentary on the mine called Mining Madness, Water Wars: Great Lakes in the Balance.

This mine is a massive disaster waiting to happen, and the state’s complicity is an outrage. Call your elected state officials and the Governor to let them know.