The Sept. 15 Mining Journal quotes Rio Tinto’s Matt Johnson saying the company is still “considering our power generation options at the mine site.”
In case no one noticed, these past couple years tall power poles holding seven thick wires have been erected on Marquette County Road 550, all paid for by Rio Tinto. (Recently) they are digging trenches to run power to the mine site. And Rio Tinto’s looking at other options?
Under Michigan’s new mining law, “construction of utilities or extension of existing utilities” is considered to be “mining activity.”
Regardless, the DNRE’s Hal Fitch claims Rio Tinto is simply running the power to a huge “core shed” and because the shed “is not a mining operation” Rio Tinto doesn’t need to follow the provisions of our mining law.
Instead, we’re supposed to believe that Rio Tinto paid millions to run a line capable of powering thousands of homes from Marquette down county roads 550, 510 and the AAA road just to service a few hundred homes in Big Bay and keep the lights and heat on in their shed.
In July 2008, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Deputy Director Jim Sygo wrote that Rio Tinto “would have to apply for an amendment to its Part 632 mining permit before beginning activities to extend electrical service from CR 550 to the Eagle Project mine site.”
Curiously, something changed his mind and Sygo wrote Rio Tinto only three months later that supplying power to the shed was okay since the shed would not be in the “actual mining area” and is used for exploration. If the shed, located in the center of the fenced-in mining area isn’t within the “actual mining area,” then what is?
It’s interesting to watch the DNRE use our mining law to say both that Rio Tinto couldn’t run electric lines to the mine site and that Rio Tinto actually could run power from Marquette all the way to the Yellow Dog Plains to power a shed smack dab in the middle of the mining area because the DNRE considers the shed to have the distinction of being located within the mining area but not the “actual” mining area.
No wonder Aquila, trying to mine for gold and zinc on the banks of the Menominee River, the Upper Peninsula’s largest river system, bragged that the “tough” new law is “mining friendly legislation.”
by Gabriel Caplett