Are We Going To Allow Acid Drainage Into Lake Superior?

Are We Going To Allow Acid Drainage Into Lake Superior?

Though it is deemed one of the most serious threats to water quality by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) continues to consider a metallic sulfide mine proposal in the Yellow Dog Plains near Marquette, Michigan. The mine, called the Eagle Project, would be blasted underneath the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River, which flows into Lake Superior.

Acid mine drainage from sulfide mining has already polluted more than 12,000 miles of rivers and streams and over 180,000 acres of lakes and impoundments in the U.S. There has never been a metallic sulfide mine in a water-rich area that did not pollute its watershed. 1 And acid mine drainage often continues years after the mining is complete – acid mine drainage still seeps from mines worked by Romans prior to A.D. 476!

Ninety percent of the closest township residents oppose the mine – over 5,000 Marquette residents signed petitions in opposition. The MDEQ’s own consultants found significant aspects of the proposal “faulty and unfounded”. Even so, and despite that fact that MDEQ had not received or reviewed all the input from the ongoing public comment period, the MDEQ made the “draft” decision to approve a series of permits to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company for its “Eagle Project”.

MDEQ needs to know the outrage over their taking such a premature position against our Great Lakes way of life. Voices are needed from throughout the Great Lakes! To speak out for the Yellow Dog Plains and pristine waterways, write or email the MDEQ and insist they act responsibly by denying Kennecott’s proposal. In addition to your personal comments, you can cite the following reasons:

  • Even with the best plans in place, there has never been a metallic sulfide mine that has not polluted its watershed across the United States. (1)
  • Risk to the survival of the Coaster Brook Trout is too high. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Salmon Trout River in northern Marquette County is thought to be the only location for natural reproduction of the Coaster Brook Trout in Michigan.
  • Risk to the federally endangered Kirtland’s warbler, recently found in the area, is too high.
  • Acid mine drainage and the mine’s roof caving in are dire concerns that have not been addressed. Heavy metals leaking from sulfide mines are toxic to people, wildlife, and the environment.
  • The expected release of 20 tons/year of heavy metals into the air will surely poison the Yellow Dog and Salmon Trout rivers and endanger human health. The poisonous plume could easily extend for miles and be deadly to pines and conifers.
  • The use and destruction of state forest lands for the mine’s facilities is unprecedented and unacceptable. One hundredtwenty acres would be bulldozed clear of all life, fenced, and unavailable to the public until the year 2042. The facilities would include ore crushers, diesel generators, water treatment plants,waster water ponds,waste rock facilities and other mine facilities-turning this state forest land into an industrial waste land.

Send comments by October 17 to DEQ/DNR
Kennecott Comments, Office of Geological Survey,
P.O. Box 30256, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7756,

Many thanks to the dedicated people and organizations, including Yellow DogWatershed Preserve and Save the Wild UP, who continue to work hard on saving one of the last wild places in the Midwest.

(1) Kuipers & Associates and Buka Environmental. 2006. Comparison of Predicted and Actual Water Quality at Hardrock Mines.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.