by Tony DeFalco, National Wildlife Federation
Another iron ore mine expansion is in the works. The Tilden Mining Company (TMC), an outfit partially owned and operated by Cleveland Cliffs, Inc. (a Cleveland-based company) has applied to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for a permit to expand its North Rock Stockpile. Stockpiles are immense piles of waste rock extracted from mine pits. The expansion will add 190 long tons of waste to an existing stockpile. The proposed expansion will be 255 acres in size and will destroy 61.7 acres of wetlands and 3,480 lineal feet of intermittent and perennial stream. The Tilden Mine is located near the Empire Mine (also proposing to expand) in Marquette County, MI.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other environmental groups have already taken action to contest the permit MDEQ issued for the Empire expansion. In that case, the permit was issued in violation of numerous state and federal statutes. That expansion will destroy 79 acres of wetlands and 4,700 lineal feet of stream with pit expansions, new pit development and waste rock stockpile expansions. Recent reports have indicated that to compensate for stream destruction, the mine is willing to pay between $8 and $10 per foot of lineal stream destroyed. That’s right, folks, between eight and ten bucks a foot. That’s what a stream in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is worth. Michigan’s streams are protected by law and not for sale at such a price.
TMC proposes to mitigate wetlands losses by adding 108 acres of wetlands to its Republic Wetlands Preserve in Republic Township. That’s close to a 2:1 ratio, but as many are aware, creating wetlands that have the same properties and values of natural wetlands is a dicey prospect. None of the alternatives considered in TMC’s permit application consider the notion of not destroying wetlands and streams by changing to footprint of the stockpile, for example. The alternatives focus solely on mining the maximum amount of ore possible and different locations for stockpiles.
The waste rock stockpile expansion will eradicate a biathlon ski trail built by community organizations in the area. This is only the second Olympic-certified course in the U.S. To review the permit application call MDEQ at (906) 475-2040 for a copy.