A series of letters recently published in the Marquette Mining Journal reflects ongoing and insistent objections to Rio Tinto’s activities in the Upper Peninsula, particularly with regard to the not-yet operational Eagle Mine Project.
Big Bay resident Carla Champagne wrote of a trip to London to address the Rio Tinto shareholders meeting and network with activists and government leaders. ”All of them were well aware of Rio Tinto’s legacy of human and workers’ rights abuses, environmental degradation and disregard for the law,” Champagne said.
Residents of Big Bay, and environmental groups including the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Concerned Citizens of Big Bay, are seeking additional monitoring of both air and water quality near the Eagle site. Hydrological studies conducted prior to the permitting of the Eagle mine are said to have been inadequate and incomplete. Concerns about air quality have arisen recently due to Rio Tinto’s plans to remove the filter from the exhaust stack situated near the Salmon Trout River.
A second letter (written by Catherine Parker), focusing on the County Road 595/haul road issue, reminds the community of this company’s manipulations and urges local officials and citizens to assert control.
We should not allow Rio Tinto to dictate to us which routes it will use to ship out its ore. They would have us believe that we must choose between running mine trucks through the city, and tearing up our wilderness.
If they’re concerned about keeping their rather tenuous social license to operate, they might be careful to avoid further bullying. We should not be fooled by gifts given to local charities. They are nothing more than flowers after a black eye.
And in today’s paper, Jeffery Loman, a Keweenaw Bay Indian Community member residing in Alaska, says that challenges against the Eagle Project will not be dropped until Rio Tinto complies with our laws.
Those of us who work in the environmental field wonder how an Indian sacred site now sits with a giant metal tube in it and a “treated water infiltration system” with no Clean Water Act permit stands ready to discharge a half million gallons per day of mine water that will “vent” to the surface – flow into the Salmon Trout River and into Lake Superior.
The “why” can be found when you study carefully how Rio Tinto operates. It is a fact that Rio Tinto lobbied and lawyered upfront – including gaining the adoption of Michigan‘s Part 632 Non-ferrous metals mining law.
Rio Tinto has hired key state employees who worked on their state permits, advocated for their approval and even defended them in litigation…This practice is forbidden by the executive branch and for good reason.
The permitting of the Eagle Mine is a test case for Michigan’s Part 632 Mining Law, which is charged with ensuring environmental protections against the impacts of nonferrous mining conducted within sulfide ore bodies.
With other potential projects lining up in the Upper Peninsula, there is growing concern that allowing a mining company to bypass the requirements of a law (that many find lacking in the first place) sets a dangerous precedent for the region, one that will result in long-term and in some cases permanent degradation to both our land and water resources.
And so, we fight on.
Now it’s coming unraveled. The alternative road can’t seem to be approved and Rio Tinto is writing letters to my tribe, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, trying to restore trust throughout the community. ~J.L.
Instead of spending money on public relations and smoke screens, it is time for Rio Tinto to do the right thing and put their money where it will actually help the community. ~C.C.
This company has yanked around our citizens and officials and conducted activities without permits, confident that penalties would be minimal to nonexistent. It is a bit late to regret that we invited them into our community, but we should show them the door as quickly as possible. In the meantime, make them obey the rules. ~C.P.
Please read these letters in their entirety. Then take a stand in your community, or help someone else in theirs.