Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mining in the UP

For the Yoopers reading, or anyone interested in the topic of sulfide mining and the U.P., there's now a movie produced by the NWF, detailing the issue.  I'm sure it's a bit one-sided, but the Gov'nur and Kennecott refused to be interviewed.  Not that I blame them, but at least their views would've had a chance of being presented.

Personally and professionally, I have degree in Geology and worked as a Water-Quality Specialist with the USEPA and the local Native American Indian Tribe.  For a time, sulfide mining in the U.P. was the main focus of my job and I was consumed by it.  What I learned about the issue is that metallic sulfides have never been mined without severe and lasting damage to the environment , where the concentration of sulfide is high enough to produce Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), like the site to be mined in the central U.P.  Kennecott has never done it, nor has anyone else.  That is fact.  They're WELL known for exploiting a location and leaving the damage for the USEPA and people who live there, to clean up and pay for it in perpetuity.  AMD, once begun, never stops until the source (ore body and poor rock) of it is exhausted.  There is no way to "clean it up", or stop it.  I believe it's the largest, longest-running and most expensive problem the EPA faces-remediation of abandoned sulfide mines.  Dump un-oxidized heavy metals and sulfuric acid in a river and what do you get?  Death. Of. Everything.

As a Geologist, I wish, in my heart of hearts, that there was a way that sulfide mining could be done safely.  I would love to see safe and efficient sulfide mining come to the U.P. and see the area benefit from it, economically.  I would be the first to line up for a job, actually.  However, the sad reality is that the area will be exploited and destroyed and the U.P. will see little economic benefit and be left to clean up the mess with no means to pay for it.  Kennecott will make billions and the shell companies set up to realize the profits will disappear like smoke on a windy day.  So, too will the people who stood up for it, claiming it safe, claiming jobs and boost for the economy.   The Granholm administration that forced the issue through?  They too, will be long gone and forgotten when the bill comes due.  Sad, but inevitable.

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