In Wake of DNR’s Kennecott Approval, Groups Vow to Protect Michigan’s Natural Resources


Contact: Gabriel Caplett
Telephone: 906/226-6649
Email: [email protected]


Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, Keepers of the Water, and Yellow Dog Summer are opposed to Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director, Rebecca Humphries’, decision to grant agency approval for Kennecott Eagle Minerals’ mining and reclamation plan and surface use lease of public state land.

The DNR has approved a flawed mining and reclamation plan and abrogated its mandate to protect Michigan’s natural resources and the public trust. According to the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, the State of Michigan is required to: "protect and conserve the natural resources of the State [and] prevent and guard against the pollution of lakes and streams within the State."

The DNR approved Kennecott’s permits despite major flaws in the company’s mining application to the Michigan DEQ, including false and inaccurate data regarding water drawdown in adjacent wetlands as well as the stability of the crown pillar and bedrock. Bedrock instability is a problem shared with Kennecott’s now-closed Flambeau Mine, in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, Kennecott and the DNR claimed a fractured layer of bedrock would serve as an impermeable barrier preventing contaminated wastewater from flowing into the Flambeau River. Kennecott erected a plaque on the site saying, "The Flambeau mine is separated from the Flambeau River by a 140-foot rock pillar stronger than the Hoover Dam."

However, according to the company’s 1989 "Model Output Summary" and a 2000 annual report, Kennecott knew of fractures in the bedrock: "all the groundwater flowing through the waste rock in the reclaimed pit will exit the pit through the Precambrian rock in the river pillar and flow directly into the bed of the Flambeau River." Kennecott also referred to it as a "fractured Precambrian bedrock" and a "weathered and highly fractured schist." In 2000, Kennecott noted that the "pore water has begun migrating through this fracture zone from the backfill toward the Flambeau River."

In a December 7, 2007, letter to Kennecott, the DNR requested further clarification of issues relating to the permits from Kennecott, including a request that the company "identify the plan of inspection of the impermeable surfaces, to assure they are free from cracks and penetrations."

The DNR is allowing Kennecott to fence and occupy 120 acres of state land until at least 2042. With at least 5 adjacent planned projects, there is the potential for much more state land to be privatized in coming years. And the DNR is doing this for a company that plans to sell its minerals to the Chinese government. In November, 2007, Rio Tinto Copper Group CEO, Bret Clayton said the Eagle Project "gives Rio Tinto a valuable opportunity to enter the market for nickel, a key input into stainless steel, demand for which is rising strongly led by the development of new infrastructure in developing economies." In January, 2008, Rio Tinto’s CEO, Tom Albanese, said he expects China, already the largest buyer of nickel, copper, aluminum, steel, coal and iron ore, to consume more than half of the world’s total mineral and metal resources within ten years.

Excluding the public from state lands is illegal under Michigan law and violates the public trust: land not reserved for public parks may be leased, but not sold, for up to 99 years and are still subject to public trust rights of navigation, hunting and fishing. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) also maintains fishing, hunting and gathering rights in the area, by an 1842 treaty with the US government.

In recognition that the DNR has disregarded its mandate to protect the Michigan public’s natural resources, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, Keepers of the Water, and Yellow Dog Summer pledge to fill this void and protect the public trust by monitoring Kennecott’s activities on the Yellow Dog Plains and organizing citizens to protect our valuable freshwater resources.

State land belongs not to a foreign-owned corporation, the DNR, the DEQ, or the Governor. It is the people’s land.


For more information, or to schedule an interview, please call 906/226-6649 or e-mail Gabriel Caplett at [email protected]

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