Editorial: Mine damage irreversible

NW Staff

The Kennecott Eagle Project, a proposed nickel and copper mine 25 miles northwest of the city of Marquette, looks to be a go.

Though Kennecott awaits a Feb. 7 decision by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has already given Kennecott the go-ahead, and during Friday’s DNR meeting, DNR Director Rebecca Humphries is expected to approve the mining company’s permit requests.

Does Kennecott’s approval by the MDEQ mean that the mine is harmless? Unequivocally no.

The seemingly simple question that needs to be asked, and has been repeatedly brought up, is whether or not the mine will leave a lasting impact on the environment. The outspoken opponents say there is no possible way that intrusive “sulfide mining,” as they refer to it, can be environmentally-friendly. The proponents, though much more difficult to seek out, insist the mining can be eco-friendly.

While it’s true that the mine may create local jobs, any economic boost will be modest and temporary. Kennecott expects to employ over 100 individuals who will be directly involved in the project, with a goal of at least 75 percent of its employee base coming from the local community. The company expects the mining to be completed in six to eight years, according to Kennecott’s Web site.

By contrast, the damage done by this mine is likely to be profound and irreversible. Save the Wild UP, a nonprofit anti-sulfide mine organization, maintains that there has never been a metallic sulfide mine that has failed to pollute its watershed.

For people who’ve grown up in the Upper Peninsula, and students and faculty at NMU who have driven through former and current mining areas such as Negaunee, Palmer, Suomi, Tilden Township or Ishpeming, there is one absolute: Any type of mining leaves a lasting impact on the environment. From the caving grounds in Negaunee to the once white but now pink houses in Palmer, mining has left its impact on communities surrounding Northern’s campus.

And for the men and women who enjoy activities like hunting, fishing, bird watching and hiking on the Yellow Dog Plains area, the land Kennecott plans to mine, there will be major changes. And for the families who live near the mine, there will be lasting effects: polluted water and forever altered backyards.