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Freshwater Future Calls for Investigation Into Michigan’s Eagle Mine

Posted on July 6, 2017 by

Photo credit: jeremiaheagleeye

Freshwater Future submitted a letter to Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) calling for an investigation into the geological stability of Eagle Mine—an underground nickel and copper mine located in western Marquette County of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Officials at Lundin Mining failed to publicly disclose a ‘collapse’ incident that occurred in August of 2016. When pressed on the situation months later, representatives claimed it was not a “noteworthy” event that warranted public disclosure. A federal investigator, however, called the event “substantial,” designating it a “large block failure.”

The report laid blame for the incident in part on a “fault”—a critical fracture and flaw in the rock that the report warned could be one of many such difficult-to-detect faults weakening the mine structure. The report also blamed certain decisions made by Eagle Mine engineers. Most notably, the cabling support used to stabilize the mine’s stopes (an open space where minerals have been extracted) was especially inadequate: the installed bolts “represented approximately one-quarter of the capacity” that was necessary for proper support of the surrounding rock.

Residents and the MDEQ—the primary regulatory agency for mines in Michigan—only learned of the investigation’s findings in May, 8 months after its conclusion and 9 months after the collapse. 

Now, Lundin Mining is requesting that the MDEQ change its current permit to allow them to dig a tunnel to connect its current operations to a nearby mineral deposit. The company also wishes to mine closer to the surface than what was originally permitted—a move experts warn could cause a more substantial collapse. Given the company’s lack of transparency and the federal investigator’s assertion that fractures and flaws may be widespread and dangerous, these requests should be denied.

The failure of geological faults within Eagle Mine could prove fatal for mine employees and catastrophic for the surrounding ecology. Any large-scale collapse would result in the destruction of wetlands, streams, and rivers in the surrounding Yellow Dog Watershed, as well as expose sulfides that release devastating and long-lasting pollution when mixed with water. Drainage would eventually flow into Lake Superior.

In our letter, Freshwater Future demanded an investigation to determine the degree to which Lundin failed to apply proper safety techniques, to determine whether the mine’s stability is indeed as durable as claimed, and to evaluate whether the same design assumptions should be used in permitting any further expansion.

Read the full letter here.

The State of Michigan is currently accepting public comments on Lundin’s permit request. Have your voice heard by sending your thoughts to DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov

@FreshwaterFutur

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© 2019 Freshwater Future. All Rights Reserved.

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