Earlier today, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that they have withdrawn their proposed decision to approve a permit for Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to open sulfide mine near Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The DEQ had previously issued a proposed decision supporting mine, but it decided to rescind that decision after discovering that two reports on the structural integrity of the mine were not made part of the public record, nor were they given a “comprehensive technical review.” With the discovery of this omission, the DEQ has postponed planned public hearings on the mine while it conducts a review of the reports examining their technical, legal, and policy impacts. Just a week ago, the proposed mine faced another hurdle when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that additional permits would be needed before the mine can begin operating.
In addition to reviewing the technical merits of the reports, the Michigan DEQ is also “undertaking an extensive procedural review” to determine why the reports were not reviewed and why they were not made publicly available. The DEQ further stated that staff affected by the review will be assigned to other projects while the review is underway. Unfortunately, such oversights are commonplace in the mine permitting processes in the United States, according to a study released in December of 2006 by Earthworks. The group found that particularly with regard to water contamination, mines are frequently approved after regulators assert that they will not generate pollution only to find that they later generate considerable pollution.
Save the Wild UP, one of the primary organizations opposing the mine, described the decision as “a wonderful step in the right direction” and called on people to continue organizing to keep up momentum.