Kennecott Eagle Project—Yellow Dog Plains
There has been a mostly one-sided debate going on about the Kennecott proposal, the Eagle Project on the Yellow Dog Plains. This is a very small venture that will mine nickel and copper ores in an underground mining operation and then ship the ore to be concentrated and smelted in Canada. Upon completion, Kennecott will backfill the mined out areas with concrete, rock and limestone that will neutralize the potential threat of acid formation.
Opponents of this project have used the term sulfide mining rather than the conventional nickel and copper mining terms. Sulfide refers to the type of mineral that contains the metal being mined. Most metals are either in the form of oxides, such as the iron ore mined at the nearby Tilden Mine, or sulfides such as the copper mined at the White Pine Mine near Ontonagon. The term sulfide mining was not used when White Pine mined copper sulfide minerals for over 40 years. White Pine concentrated the copper minerals and smelted them into metals near the shore of Lake Superior and did a good job of protecting the environment. They did this as a mostly unregulated mining operation. That mining company knew they had to keep their nose clean to stay in business. So does Kennecott!
The Eagle project will not concentrate or refine their ore like White Pine did, only crush it and ship it. They will mine 1,500 tons per day. Compare this to the Tilden/Empire iron ore operation that mines over 200,000 tons per day and the White Pine operation that mined 17,000 tons per day of copper sulfide ores. About 50 acres of land will be impacted at Eagle compared to the several square miles at Tilden/Empire and 360 surface acres at White Pine. With this minimal mining operation and the laws on the books that regulate sulfide mining, there is not much potential for the Eagle Project to pollute the environment. In fact, by removing millions of tons of metal sulfide minerals from the ground and replacing it with concrete and a limestone/rock mixture, they will leave a much-reduced potential for acid generation from what exists today. When the mine is backfilled, Kennecott will flood the mine with water and reestablish the water table. This will keep the remaining sulfide minerals under water thus depriving them of the oxygen needed for acid formation. That is why there is no acid being formed with the abundance of sulfide minerals in the ground today.
There needs to be a voice for responsible, reasonable mining in the U.P. If the tactics of a few anti-mining activists can defeat the Eagle project, a small venture with a big economic impact, what happens when a major mining development shows potential in the U.P.? Environmental groups have fought hard in the past to prevent mining operations, like the Empire mine, to proceed with planned stripping stockpile expansions. They have threatened existing jobs. Where will they stand if a mining company wants to develop the huge Cascade iron ore deposit south of Palmer with a potential for 1000 plus jobs for 30 years or more. What company will want to explore for minerals in the U.P. if the emotions of the anti-mining community rules? We have tough mining laws that prevent polluting the environment. Any mining project that meets these requirements should be allowed to go ahead. New technologies and good mining practices can have the economic impact of high paying jobs and still preserve the environment. Citizens for Responsible Mining will be an advocate for the coexistence of wilderness protection and responsible utilization of our natural resources.
A Citizen for Responsible Mining