News

Keep informed about mining developments, politics, events and indigenous and citizen activism from local to international.

Rally for wild rice protection to greet Dayton at fishing opener

by Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
May 12, 2011
St. Paul, Minn. — A rally to support protection for wild rice will greet Gov. Mark Dayton at the fishing opener this weekend in northern Minnesota.
The legislature is considering a measure that would raise the sulfate permitted in wild rice waters from the current ten milligrams-per-liter, to 50 milligrams-per-liter.
Robert Shimek, from the White Earth Land Recovery Project, said the more stringent standard has worked over the years.
“If an industrial or agricultural or energy project can keep its sulfate discharges below 10mg per liter, wild rice can survive and actually thrive,” Shimek said.
Proposed copper-nickel mining projects in northeastern Minnesota are expected to increase the sulfate levels enough that they may not meet the current standard.
A review of the matter is underway, but Shimek said laboratory studies won’t be enough.
“Fluctuating water levels, temperature extremes, you may come up with an entirely different set of circumstances between a lab experiment and what actually goes on in nature,” he said.

Rio Tinto news

May 11, 2011, courtesy the London Mining Network

Re-opening of Panguna Mine is not negotiable


Locals from Bougainville are keen to correct the pro-mine media regarding the reopening of the Panguna mine and warn against misrepresentation of views and a repeat of the bloody violence of the past. The proponent, Bougainville Copper Limited is majority owned by Rio Tinto, whose Australian AGM was held in Perth on 5 May.
See http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10890.

London Calling sees Rio Tinto take it on the Chinalco
As reported last week, Vale of Brazil has just secured a big chunk of one of the world’s most-criticised new hydro dams. Now, China’s biggest aluminium producer, Chinalco, has signed a JV deal with a Malaysian tycoon in order to access electricity from another hugely-condemned dam – Bakun in Sarawak, due to start up this year. Not that this is surprising – damnable though it may be, given the legacy of forest destruction and violation of Indigenous Peoples rights bequeathed by this enterprise over recent years. Chinalco is the biggest shareholder (at around 9%) in Rio Tinto. And, more than three years ago, Rio Tinto signed a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian government to take power from Bakun for a proposed aluminium smelting complex of its own. See http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=10888.

Utah mine seeks approval to expand operations
A proposal to expand the world’s largest open pit copper mine and keep it operating for another decade could take an important step forward if Utah air quality regulators allow increased emissions from the operation. But opponents are worried increased emissions will further foul the air along the urban Wasatch Front, especially during the winter, when the region has some of the most polluted air in the country. See http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/05/04/business-us-utah-kennecott-mine-emissions_8449905.html.

Opposition to Rio Tinto subsidiary Kennecott in Michigan
Internationally Recognized Principles Needed for the Protection of Eagle Rock: Six Articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – paper

Prepared by Jessica Koski: https://newwarriorsforearth.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/indigenousrightseaglerock2.pdf
See also Residents concerned about water quality question Rio Tinto-Kennecott at community forum
http://keweenawnow.blogspot.com/2011/05/residents-concerned-about-water-quality.html?spref=fb

Protect Our Manoomin Testimony by Montana Picard 

Protect Our Manoomin Testimony before Conference Committee on H.F. 1010
05/06/2011
Protect Our Manoomin Statement

Testimony before Conference Committee on H.F. 1010, Friday, May 6, 2011

I am here today on behalf of the group Protect Our Manoomin. Manoomin is the Ojibwe-Anishinaabe word for “Wild Rice”. The Anishinaabe relationship with their Manoomin is intimate, integral and sacred. Manoomin is to the Anishinaabe what the buffalo is to the Lakota.  The Ojibwe people have lived in what is now Minnesota for millennia and have harvested the wild rice for hundreds of years.

Birds, insects, ducks, and people as well as fish, reptiles, and small unseen life all live on and depend on wild rice for food and shelter. Wild rice is a barometer of a healthy vibrant ecosystem.

However, in areas across Wisconsin and Michigan where sulfide run-off from mining is present, wild rice is dying off.

Euro-Americans have inhabited Minnesota for one-hundred and fifty-three years. In that time they have taken most of the Ojibwe land by treaty. All the virgin forests have been cut down. The water has been polluted, and the environment has changed in the name of “progress” and “profit.”

But now with so little forest and wetland left, you must stop and ask yourselves “Why do I live here? Do I live in Minnesota so I can complain about the cold? Or do I live here for the beauty of it, the lakes and rivers, the seasons.” Do any of you fish, hunt, hike, ski in the northwoods? Do you love our North Shore? Our Boundary Waters? If you do, then why would you vote to turn it over to a foreign company that would ultimately destroy what is left of our environment for their profit?

I understand people need jobs, but these jobs are short lived and come with a heavy price tag. The money made in royalties and taxes will never pay for the amount of destruction brought by these companies. And they will leave a mess for us here to live with, to pay for, and to get sick on.

Wild rice beds will not survive an increase in sulfate levels in the water they live in. This is been proven, by science and by the oral history of the Anishinaabe. For the Ojibwe, losing this vital food source through sulfide mining amounts to ecocide.  Destroying the Manoomin is destruction of their culture and spirituality.

Even if my values seem different than yours, I have voted for you to be here to represent my interests and Minnesota’s interests. I ask you to stop putting multinational industry profits before our environment. There are better ways to solve the problems we face. If you allow these companies to destroy our land and rivers and, in turn, our Manoomin, it will be permanent.

I ask would any of you trade your home, your food and your families’ health for a short term job that paid so very much less than what your life was worth?

Last, I want to say, Native people live in every district in this state,  and you do represent them. We are, after all, first and last, people and Minnesotans. Please do not allow the further destruction of our environment.

Thank You
Mii’gwech

~ Montana Picard

Lansing – The Michigan Senate voted along party lines today to limit the authority of the governor to protect the Great Lakes.
Under the provision, the executive branch is prohibited from issuing any rule that contains a standard more stringent than federal law unless specifically authorized by the legislature.
Flashback to the 1970s – Lake Erie was dying – algae beds were covering the lake – scientists pointed the finger at phosphorus in laundry detergent. The legislature refused to act. In 1976, Governor Milliken stepped up and issued an administrative rule limiting phosphorus – and the lakes recovered. The legislature affirmed that restriction 32 later in 2008. Under the law passed by the Senate today, the governor would be prohibited from stepping in to protect the lakes as Gov. Milliken did 35 years ago.
“Federal standards to protect water quality are designed to be a minimum standard below which states are not allowed to drop. They are not written by people who feel a stewardship responsibility over one of the world’s most important freshwater resource,” said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.
“It seems inconceivable that politicians in the Great Lakes State believe Washington bureaucrats will protect the lakes better than those who live here. But that’s what they’ve said with today’s vote.”
Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to exempt rules designed to protect the Great Lakes, but that amendment failed.
###
Contact
James Clift: 517-256-0553

Keweenaw Now: Residents concerned about water quality question Rio Tinto-Kennecott at community forum

Leadership Needed: Letter to the Editor

May 1, 2011, The Mining Journal

To the Journal editor:
I submitted a letter to Gov. Snyder urging him to issue an executive order to immediately halt activity at the Eagle Project site until the following points are addressed. This letter supports a citizen coalition WAVE letter to Snyder on March 24.
1. Cumulative impacts. There should be a comprehensive impact study of the mine, mill and road, and six prospective adjacent projects that all add up. This includes impacts to freshwater, wetlands, social well-being and culture (including federally entrusted treaty rights).
2. Short- and long-term costs and benefits. The Eagle Project may offer needed temporary employment, but what will be the long-term costs and impacts on jobs? How will the tourism, recreation, gaming and other industries be impacted and realistically co-exist with large-scale extractive industry? Who will pay to clean up potential damage to natural resources beyond the company’s $17 million dollar assurance bond? An independent short- and long-term cost-benefit study should be commissioned.
3. A state mining tax. Kennecott – a subsidiary of Rio Tinto based in London – plans to profit billions from the Eagle ore body. What does Michigan expect to get in return with apparently no mining tax law?
4. Mitigation of a religious Native American site: Migi zii wa sin (Eagle Rock). Michigan Administrative Law Judge Patterson recommended that “provisions be made to avoid direct impacts to Eagle Rock that may interfere with religious practices thereon.” The National Congress of American Indians has called for federal and state action to guarantee preservation of Eagle Rock from Kennecott.
It’s possible to envision alternative sustainable development opportunities for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Traditional economic theorists believed economic growth to be dependent upon external capital and extraction of more resources.
However, true economic progress is self-sustaining and driven from within, as leading economic scholar Paul Romer terms “endogenous growth theory,” where people have an “incentive to go out and discover things like ideas, not to do things like dig up another cubic yard of iron ore.”
It’s not too late to overcome socially divisive impacts affecting the community by a multinational mining corporation. It shouldn’t be a choice between jobs or a healthy environment because we have a right to demand both. We need leadership from all levels of government – people’s lives, cultures and futures are at stake, not just jobs.
Jessica L. Koski, member
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ’11

Rio Tinto to Explore in Ottawa National Forest

Rio Tinto has notified the Ottawa National Forest of plans to explore for minerals within the federal forest.  While the federal government owns surface rights to the parcel, the minerals are privately-owned, so the Forest Service is obligated to approve the exploration request.
Rio Tinto plans to drill about 9 miles north of Kenton, in Houghton County, Michigan, on the Ontonagon Ranger District.
See kennecott-ottawa-exploration-map.

Activists from around the world attack British mining giant

On 14 April 2011, London-based Rio Tinto plc held its AGM (annual shareholders’ meeting) in London.
14 April also marked the thirtieth anniversary of the first concerted intervention by “dissident shareholders” in what is now the world’s third most powerful mining company.
In 1981, these shareholders launched the “People against Rio Tinto” (Partizans) campaign. And some of them have attended every AGM since then, bringing with them community representatives and trade unionists from almost every country where the company operates. Collectively they constitute the most consistent corporate lobby of its kind, anywhere in the world. In 2007, Partizans was key to setting up London Mining Network, which co-ordinated activities around this year’s Rio Tinto AGM.
As in previous years, the company’s highly questionable environmental and social record came under concerted attack from campaigners around the world.
Chalid Muhammad, a prominent Green activist from Indonesia, demanded to know why the company had not fulfilled its undertakings to fully compensate local people for human rights abuses and loss of their land at Rio Tinto’s now-closed Kelian gold mine in Kalimantan – all responsibility for which Rio Tinto will relinquish in 2013.
Meg Townsend, who works for a prominent New York law firm, declared the company had failed to observe the religious rights of Native Americans at one of its prospective mine sites in Michigan, USA.
Toxic impacts
Also from North America, Cherise Udell representing “Utah Moms for Clean Air” pointed out that residents of Salt Lake City, and in particular young children, were grievously suffering from toxic emissions at the company’s massive Bingham Canyon copper mine.
Patricia Feeney, director of Oxford-based Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) raised urgent questions about the impacts on water quality of the company’s proposed Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia.
Other questions related to the company’s position on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to withhold their consent for mining projects, including at the Pebble project in Alaska. The issue was also spotlighted in a letter by a leader of the Aboriginal Mirrar people in Australia, who fear for the consequences of the company’s  uranium extraction on their territory – extraction which, they believe, may have helped fuel the Fukushima disaster.
Rio’s empty promises
The question and answer session lasted  two hours – one of the longest since Rio Tinto first became a  “battle ground” between communities and the company in 1981.
Asked for his assessment of who had “won”, and who had “lost” at this year’s AGM, co-founder of Partizans, Roger Moody, said:
“It’s not a case of winning or losing. On the one hand, Rio Tinto has certainly made some concessions to its opponents – for example selling some of its more dubious coal mines.
“On the other hand, the gap between its promises and actual performance is as wide as ever.
“For example, the company says it’s in contact with aggrieved Indonesian communities still suffering from lack of compensation for the impacts of its closed-down Kelian gold mine. But, as Chalid Muhammad pointed out today, their grievances have remained unaddressed for the past couple of years.
“The company says it’s always ready to dialogue with its ‘stakeholders’.  And, one of these stakeholders, Cherise Udell, made a passionate plea on behalf of thousands of children affected by toxic emissions from the company’s Salt Lake copper mine.
“But, when she simply asked for a citizens’ round table meeting with Rio Tinto CEO, Tom Albanese, he ignored her plea.”
“Will it take another thirty years before Rio Tinto is doing what it says it will do?”
Colourful protest
Outside the AGM, Utah Moms for Clean Air led protests against the company. Colourful balloons were burst, each representing a premature death because of air pollution caused by the company’s operations at Salt Lake City. Air pollution in the area causes between 1000 and 2000 premature deaths per year, and Rio Tinto’s Kennecott subsidiary is blamed for 30% of this pollution.
For photographs of the protests and the AGM, see http://londonminingnetwork.org/2011/03/london-events-around-the-rio-tinto-agm/.
For further details and to arrange interviews with visitors from Indonesia and the USA, phone LMN Co-ordinator Richard Solly, 07929 023214.

Letter: Michigan Needs money! Here is a suggestion:

March 12, 2011
Dear Editor,
Michigan Needs money! Here is a suggestion:
I recently saw some information on file with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) dealing with Kennecott’s tax payments to the State of Wisconsin for the Flambeau Mine. The mine operated near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, in the mid-1990s; and conservative estimates put the value of the ore (copper, gold and silver) at $585 million.
According to the Wisconsin DOR, Kennecott paid the State of Wisconsin $14.3 million in taxes. That works out to less than 3 percent of the value of the ore. As tax time approaches, don’t you wish your taxes could be computed at a rate of 3 percent? It makes me wonder — Is Michigan’s mining tax law as lousy as Wisconsin’s? When I tried to find the answer, I couldn’t even find where Michigan HAS a mining tax law!
How much money is the State of Michigan expected to get out of the $4.7 billion ore body that Kennecott is planning to mine at Eagle Rock in the Yellow Dog Plains, Upper Peninsula? Or, more important, what is the State of Michigan about to give away to a foreign mining company when public services are being cut and most people are hurting?
Ask State Representatives and Senators to tax Kennecott at a hefty rate for the metal they plan to take out of Michigan. After all, Kennecott is shipping OUR precious metals over to China to make a quick buck while we face school closings here at home. It’s not fair.
Here is contact information for State Representative Matt Huuki (517/373-0850) and State Sen. Tom Casperson (517/373-7840).
Sincerely,
Charlotte Loonsfoot
Member, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC)
Baraga, Michigan

Wisconsin Mine Foretells Trouble in Michigan

 – 02/28/2011
I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit recently filed in federal court against Kennecott Minerals for pollution at the Flambeau Mine site in Wisconsin. As such, I have been interested in keeping tabs on what the company has been telling the people of Michigan about its track record in Wisconsin.
Kennecott’s Flambeau Mine operated just feet from the Flambeau River
In particular, the company’s Deb Muchmore was quoted in a regional newspaper (Mining Journal, Marquette, MI, July 16, 2009) as saying that Kennecott’s Eagle Project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula can be expected to be built, operated and closed in “a similar outstanding fashion” as the Flambeau Mine.
I surely hope Ms. Muchmore is wrong.
Since 1998, Kennecott’s own data from its Flambeau Mine has shown toxic levels of copper in a detention pond used to collect runoff from the reclaimed mine site. The same pond was used during the mining years to collect highly toxic acid mine drainage and runoff from the open pit mine.
The polluted water in the detention pond discharges into a creek that flows across the mining company’s property to the Flambeau River. I might add that the copper levels in the discharge are not just a little high. They consistently have ranged between 2 and 30 times higher than the copper standard set to protect fish and other forms of aquatic life. Again, this is Kennecott’s own data!
I finally got tired of the failure of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to ticket Kennecott for the violations and properly regulate the pollution at the Flambeau Mine site. That’s why I teamed up with the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and the Center for Biological Diversity to sue Kennecott in federal court.
All I can say is that if Ms. Muchmore is correct in saying that the Eagle Project will be operated in a similar fashion to what the company did in Wisconsin, the people of Michigan are in big trouble.


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