The state of Michigan is proposing to lease more than 15,000 acres of state-owned mineral rights in three adjoining counties in the Upper Peninsula. These minerals, in Baraga, Houghton and Iron counties, would be leased to Kennecott Eagle Minerals, a subsidiary of mining giant Rio Tinto.
The acreage mentioned is just what is being leased by the Michigan DNR. We suspect that Kennecott has rights to the minerals in areas surrounding the current parcels as well, which could bring the total to as much as 45,000 acres.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals approached the DNR regarding these potential leases late in 2011, and in March of 2012 the DNR contacted landowners stating that they, the DNR, had been provided with the names and addresses of the landowners by a company seeking to lease mineral rights for metallic mineral exploration. The property owners own surface rights, but the mineral rights are owned by the State of Michigan. The landowner was instructed to contact the Minerals Management Section office by March 31st, 2012 if they had questions (see Surface Owner Notice, below).
A June 27, 2012 public notice regarding the proposed mineral leasing asks that interested parties submit written comments no later than 30 days from the date of the publication. Letters have been sent to the majority of the affected property owners, expressing our concerns and asking that they contact DNR with comments and a request for public hearing.
If Kennecott obtains mineral leases beneath the specified parcels, they will then have the right to enter the properties for mineral exploration. If metals are found and determined to be feasible to mine, ownership of the surface would not prevent the mineral rights owner from mining. Surface rights owners must be compensated for any harm, but the land would become a mine.
In addition to affecting privately-owned properties, mineral rights on approximately 6,900 acres of Federal Forest land and 2,500 acres of State land would be leased to Kennecott. They would then have the potential to be mined as well.
Because these are public lands, we believe it is the DNR’s responsibility to hold a public hearing and provide for an extended comment period. We urge you to contact the DNR, using the attached letter or in your own words, expressing your concern and requesting that they provide these opportunities.
These parcels have been classified in terms of potential concerns for the environment, but no field studies were performed specifically for this purpose. DNR staff relied on advice from field personnel who had prior knowledge of the area, and notes from previous visits.
Although DNR has stated that we’re still “early in the game,” it’s important to address this while we still have an opportunity to influence the outcome. If mineral leases are granted, exploration, leasing of surface rights, and mining may follow. There is a rush to permit new mines in Michigan, and the DEQ appears to be approving permit applications and significant changes to mine plans without full consideration for the law or consequences to the environment.
We’re extremely concerned that if they open up a mine in this area, it’s going to pollute the water. Groundwater, streams and lakes—including Lake Superior and Lake Michigan—are at risk. The mining industry has not demonstrated that they can operate without polluting the water.
If the proposed leases do result in the commencement of mining activity within these parcels, impacts to wetlands and other sensitive areas, destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, and other impacts could be significant to severe.
It is imperative that any concerns you have be submitted in writing at this time. Written comments relative to the leasing must be received by July 26, 2012. Please address them to:
DNR, Minerals Management Section
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, MI 48909-7952
or e-mail to: email@example.com with “Application 2012-3 Comments” in the Subject box.
If you choose to send the “Request” letter provided, please remember to insert your name and address. You may copy and paste the letter into an e-mail in order to meet the deadline.
Metallic minerals leasing in Michigan: