Deny the mineral lease application from Eagle Mine LLC for the state-owned metallic minerals beneath a 40-acre state of Michigan parcel adjacent to the Yellow Dog River.
Eagle Mine LLC, a nickel and copper mine owned by the multinational Lundin Mining Company, has applied for an additional mineral lease for state-owned metallic minerals beneath a 40-acre state of Michigan parcel located in Marquette County, T50N - R29W, Section 13, NE ¼ SE ¼.
Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve and Save the Wild UP are urging the DNR Minerals Management Office to deny this mineral lease application.
The leasing of minerals, by definition, implies the intention to develop them. The location of potential exploratory drilling is of such close proximity to the Yellow Dog River that it could have negative consequences to water quality. Storm events of severe magnitude, which have happened several times in the last few years, can cause water that was in contact with sulfide ores to be washed into the stream. Furthermore, any exploration activities could risk contaminating groundwater.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division had originally designated this property as non-development in 2003, and it remained that way until this lease application was submitted in 2014, when it changed to development with restrictions. It should have retained its status as non-development. Just because someone wants the minerals shouldn’t change the protection status of public property.
The parcel should remain off-limits to mineral development due to the documented occurrence of and high potential for rare, threatened, and endangered species in the vicinity. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve has done both plant and bird surveys near the property, which show that there is habitat that would support species such as Kirtland’s Warbler, Narrow Leaved Gentian, and Dwarf Bilberry, the latter which is a host plant to northern Blue Butterfly. In addition, there are natural communities in the vicinity, such as Upland Black Spruce-Jack Pine Forest and Wet Jack Pine Heath, which are rare in Michigan. A full formal survey of the property for its natural communities should be done before any decision is made whether to lease the minerals.
If this parcel is used for mining, its proximity to one of the main public access points along the Yellow Dog River would put the public in danger. This is a highly used area for fishing, blueberry picking, birding, snowmobiling, skiing, and more. The state should not allow private enterprise to restrict access to this important area nor expose the public to the dangers associated with exploratory drilling.
Lundin Mining Company purchased Eagle Mine LLC from Rio Tinto/Kennecott Eagle Minerals. Kennecott has been exploratory drilling in and around the Yellow Dog Plains for many years now. The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve has observed their operations and we found that the company track record for containing drill sites is very poor. We have photo documentation of ripped sump pit liners, drill bit wash basins that are overflowing, and broken fences from their exploratory drilling related to Eagle Mine. There is no evidence that demonstrates that their operations have improved since then.
With Eagle Mine's record of negligent exploration work, coupled with the proximity of this land to the Yellow Dog River, a high-quality trout stream that provides excellent habitat and angling access, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources cannot approve this direct metallic mineral lease without knowingly endangering the state's terrestrial and aquatic resources
Lastly, the public should have every opportunity to comment on the lease conditions if it is granted. We request conditions, such as: setbacks for ground disturbance and limited activity during nesting seasons. These restrictions will be necessary to protect the natural resources found in and around this public space.
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