Controversial Kennecott mine deferred due to economic woes


After years of back-and-forth between the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company and disgruntled community members, Rio Tinto, Kennecott’s parent company, announced its intention to defer the proposed Eagle Mine on the Yellow Dog Plains until market conditions improve.
“The deferral on the construction of the mine has to do with global commodity prices,” said Deb Muchmore, spokesperson for Kennecott. “The economy everywhere around the world has diminished the need for certain manufactured goods, so as manufacturing slows, so does the demand for the minerals that go into that product.”
The mine has been a topic of much controversy in the U.P. for years, and some are happy to hear the announcement, which was made Thursday, Feb. 12.
“Initially, everyone’s pretty excited about it,” said senior human centered design major Zach Luhelluer of his fellow Students Against Sulfide Mining members.
The group has been working to raise awareness about the dangers of sulfide mining, which is the type of mine Kennecott has proposed for the Plains, and Luehelluer said the group will continue its efforts to permanently shut down the mine.
Cynthia Pryor, executive director of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, said the state of Michigan needs to reevaluate how it leases its land.
“There are issues with the financial prospects of Rio Tinto,” she said. “There really needs to be an evaluation of Michigan into leasing their ores and putting our resources, state resources, in the hands of mining companies that, at this point in time, do not have the financial resources to back up the process.
“I think it was a good decision (to defer the mine), but I think the state of Michigan really needs to take a good hard look at the state of the economy, the state of commodities, the state of availability of mining companies to fully back up what they want to do.”
For now, Muchmore said Kennecott will continue its efforts to ensure the mine goes forward once the economy picks up again.
“All the activities that have been ongoing for the preparation for the start of construction . all of those activities are still ongoing,” she said. “Design and engineering of the mine itself, completion of permitting issues that are pending and the resolution that has been before the courts here last summer, all of those things are activities that the Eagle team remains focused on.”