The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has lost its 12-year legal battle to stop the construction of Eagle Mine on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A three-judge panel on the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on August 13 that state regulators were within their rights in allowing Kennecott Minerals Co. to build a nickel and copper mine, the Associated Press reported. The unanimous ruling said that mining and groundwater-discharge permits for the Marquette County mine were validly issued. The current owner is Lundin Mining Corp., based in Toronto.
The Keweenaw Bay Indians are concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination, as “wastewater discharges into an aquifer below the Yellow Dog Plains that discharges to freshwater springs and the Salmon Trout River,” according to a fact sheet compiled by the tribe. In addition there are worries about the stability of the mine pillar because “if collapse of the mine crown pillar occurs beneath the Salmon Trout River, there will be significant irreversible impact to the watershed.”
Access to traditional sacred sites and use of Migi zii wa sin, or Eagle Rock, “a place of cultural and spiritual significance to Native Americans,” has been all but cut off, the Keweenaw said. More than 500 members attended the appeals hearing in June, the tribe said in a press release at the time.
Joining the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community were environmental groups and a private hunting and fishing club, all of whom objected on environmental grounds. They had been fighting since the mine was first proposed in 2002, and the appeal had been languishing since last year.
There's still a chance the plaintiffs will appeal in Michigan Supreme Court, a spokesperson for the National Wildlife Federation told AP. But construction on the mine is nearly complete, The Mining Journal reported in mid-July.