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LETTER: Giving away Michigan's mining resources must end

Michigan’s legislature is letting Kennecott Minerals rip off the state and not pay its fair share in taxes on the copper, nickel and precious metals they plan to mine in the Upper Peninsula (Eagle Project).

The deposit is worth at least $4.7 billion, and it looks like the company is going to get by with paying the state a paltry percentage of the value of the ore in taxes. If we had a good mining tax law on the books (30-40% of the proceeds from sales), it could turn Michigan’s budget problems around!

Kennecott, after all, is leasing 120 acres of our state land for the next 40 years. The minerals belong to us, the citizens, and the Michigan Legislature is giving them away.

Many think Michigan’s new mining laws are not tough enough. It’s obvious the state does not have the expertise or “manpower” to enforce even these regulations.

Steven Chester, former head of the (Department of Environmental Quality), stated, “We simply don’t have the kind of funding we need to adequately implement the laws we’re required to implement.”

In court, it came to light that Joe Maki, DEQ’s mining team leader, has little training on this type of sulfide mining, only having attended a 2-week seminar. No other employee involved in reviewing and approving Kennecott’s permit has experience with sulfide mining, either.

When the DEQ hired outside experts to review Kennecott’s plans for the Eagle Project, they completely ignored their warnings.

For example, David Sainsbury, a rock mechanics expert, concluded that Kennecott had done a shoddy job in evaluating the stability of the roof of the mine and it did “not reflect industry best practice.” According to a second mining engineer, if built according to plan, the mine’s roof could very well collapse and take a section of the Salmon Trout River with it, endangering life and limb as well as property and environment.

The Eagle Project needs to be stopped in its tracks until we know it will be safe for the workers, safe for the environment and profitable to the State of Michigan. Call the DEQ’s Dan Wyant, 800-662-9278. Tell him to pull the plug on the Eagle Project until the problems are fixed!

Also, call Sen. Judy Emmons, 517-373-3760, and State Representative Kevin Cotter, 517-373-1789. Tell them to stop giving away the people’s resources to mining companies without fair payment!

Linda Rulison Pelkie