Eagle Mine

Project Name(s): Eagle Mine and proposed Eagle East

Websites: http://eaglemine.com/
                  Eagle East: http://eaglemine.com/exploration/

Project Lead: Eagle Mine, a Subsidiary of Lundin Mining

Location of Project: Tribal ceded territory (1842 Treaty of LaPointe) in Marquette County, Michigan.  About 25 miles east of the L’Anse Indian Reservation, about 10 miles southwest of Lake Superior, about 30 miles northwest of the City of Marquette, and about 21 miles north of the Humboldt Mill.  The nearest town, Big Bay, is about 7 miles northeast.  The project is located in the watershed headwaters of the Salmon Trout River, a tributary of Lake Superior (click here for a bird’s eye view of the area).

Metal: nickel, copper, platinum group metals, cobalt, and gold.

Type of Mine: underground; includes a 4,000 foot tunnel to the ore deposit beneath the middle branch of the Salmon Trout River.

 

Estimated life of mine: 8 years

Associated Projects: Humboldt Mill, formerly proposed Woodland Road and Marquette County Road 595, and additional adjacent exploration targets.

Environmental and Other Concerns:

  • Acid Mine Drainage potential as the metals are embedded in rock that contains a high content of acid-generating sulfide metal minerals
  • Wastewater discharges into an aquifer below the Yellow Dog Plains that discharges to freshwater springs and the Salmon Trout River
  • Mine pillar stability – if collapse of the mine crown pillar occurs beneath the Salmon Trout River, there will be significant irreversible impact to the watershed
  • Significant impact and hindered traditional access and use of a Native American cultural property and sacred place, Migi zii wa sin, Eagle Rock, a place of cultural and spiritual significance to Native Americans
  • Adverse impacts to the Salmon Trout River which is the last known breading ground of the Coaster Brook Trout on the south shore of Lake Superior
  • Air contamination and deposition due to fugitive dust emissions and the elimination of an air filter for underground mine ventilation exhaust
  • Loss and contamination of public lands and treaty-reserved resources and habitats that support those resources
  • Contribution to cumulative sulfide mining impacts within the Lake Superior basin
  • Insufficient financial assurance for potential costs associated with natural resource damages 
  • Mine related permit processes at the state level in general, lack of federal regulatory authority and meaningful tribal consultation

Status:

On February 16, 2017 Eagle Mine requested an amendment to their Part 632 mining permit to include a tunnel (decline) extending from the underground portion of Eagle Mine, east towards the eastern boundary of the Eagle Mine’s surface facilities. This decline is being constructed in order to facilitate exploration of the Eagle East mining project. Public comments were made to the DNR by KBIC in response to Eagle Mine’s NonMetallic Mineral lease request, related to Eagle East, on March 10, 2017.

Transportation Plan

In January 2013, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) denied a permit for proposed Marquette County Road 595 (a north-south ore hauling route between the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill) after the applicant was unable to address wetland related concerns of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Transportation plans since diverted to available existing routes.

In July, the City Commission of Marquette sent a request to the MDEQ to include impacts associated with the Eagle Mine transportation route as part of its mining permit.  The request was denied, which would have assessed and mitigated environmental impacts of the transportation route in the city.

Recently, the City of Marquette was looking to pass a truck ordinance to regulate mining truck traffic from the Eagle Mine, along with other truck traffic in the city.  The ordinance would set limits on truck weight and establish a specific trucking route through the city due to concerns about community safety and very costly expected damage to roads due to heavy mining truck traffic.  When filled with ore, the mine trucks are estimated to increase weight on existing roads by 50%.  However, the ordinance may not be considered further if Lundin and the City of Marquette agree on a potential trucking route bypassing the city, contingent upon approval by the Marquette Board of Light and Power.

The Marquette County Road Commission is also considering a plan for road upgrades from County Road 550 to the Eagle Mine, which will virtually be a new 55 mph highway realigned from its existing path.  Area property owners and residents are concerned about largely unconsented plans for private property to be seized by the county to build this new highway to be paid for entirely by Lundin Mining.

Legal Challenges

In December 2007, the MDEQ approved a series of permits for the Eagle Mine. Shortly thereafter, the National Wildlife Federation, Huron Mountain Club, KBIC, and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve filed a contested case appealing the issuance of the mining permit and a groundwater discharge permit.  In August 2009, an administrative law judge affirmed the permits, with an exception recommending the avoidance of direct impacts to Eagle Rock (a place of spiritual and cultural significance to the KBIC).  However, the MDEQ subsequently ignored this recommendation under the perspective that places of worship must have a built structure.   

In March 2010, plaintiffs (KBIC and its partner organizations) filed an appeal, and in November 2011 an Ingham County Circuit Court judge ruled that the mining and groundwater discharge permits were lawful.  In December 2011, the plaintiffs then filed a motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals.  In April 2012, the Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case.  Briefs have been filed, but no hearing date has been scheduled yet.  

Additional lawsuits have been filed by the Huron Mountain Club (HMC).  In May 2012, HMC sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to require federal permits for construction of the mine tunnel beneath the Salmon Trout River.  HMC’s claims were rejected and HMC appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in which arguments were heard in August 2013.  In October 2013, the federal court of appeals upheld the lower court’s decision, rejecting HMC’s arguments that the Eagle Mine needs federal permits.  In addition, HMC filed a separate lawsuit in October 2013 against the MDEQ for approving a revised air quality permit for the Eagle Mine.

Eagle Mine MDEQ Permit Timeline (2/22/06 – 5/6/12): http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/KEP_Eagle_437233_7.pdf

Humboldt Mill

Project Name: Humboldt Mill

Websites: Lundin Humboldt Mill

Project Lead: Lundin Mining

Location of Project: Tribal ceded territory (1842 Treaty of LaPointe) in the township of Humboldt near the town of Champion in Marquette County, Michigan.  About 30 miles west of the City of Marquette and about 21 miles south of the Eagle Mine.  The project is located in the watershed of the middle branch.

Metal: concentration of nickel and copper

Type of Mine: Refurbished mining ore processing facility and subaqueous tailings disposal site; from 1985-early 1990's it was used to process ore and dispose of tailings (1.8 million tons) from the Ropes Gold Mind; from 1971-1981 (off and on) it was an open-pit iron ore mine (Republic Mine).

Estimated Life of Mill: 8 years

Associated Projects: Eagle Mine, formerly proposed Woodland Road and Maquette County Road 595, railroads, and additional adjacent exploration targets.

Environmental and Other Concerns:

  • Generation of acid mine drainage as the metals being processed are embedded in rock (pyrite) that contains a high content of acid-generating sulfides, or which will produce a slurry of sulfide-bearing tailings.
  • The most dangerous source area of the Humboldt Mill site is the pit lake, where over 13,000 gallons per day of high-solids slurry of metal sulfide minerals will be placed after ore beneficiation; it is estimated that more than 2.5 million tons of this slurry will permanently be placed into the pit lake over the course of Eagle Mine's production.
  • Legacy contamination including 25 known hazardous contaminants migrating from the site and elevated levels of metals caused by the disposal of metal sulfide tailings in the pit lake during the operation of the former Ropes Gold Mine.
  • No linear system in the pit lake and lack of detailed geological characterization of surrounding bedrock, which is a standard industry procedure in order to assure no hydraulic connection to the surrounding area.
  • Uncertainty and risk due to potential natural lake turnover processes that undermine subaqueous tailings disposal theories and expectations. 
  • Uncertainty and risk due to potential climate change induced impacts, including more extreme weather and rain events predicted for the region that could affect facility infrastructure and challenge tailings management plans.
  • Excess water dischargers from the pit lake into adjacent wetlands of the Escanaba River, which could be untreated if beyond time or capacity of a temporary wastewater treatment facility.
  • Negative impacts to the health of fish and wildlife within and around the pit lake, including bald eagles documented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to nest within 2.5 miles of the site.
  • Health of the Escanaba River watershed, which is the largest watershed in the 1842 Treaty ceded territory; harvest of this fishery resource is a treaty reserved night to signatory tribes.
  • Regional concern with over 50 years of cumulative impacts from mining activities within the Escanaba River watershed (including the East Branch); this includes elevated levels of selenium and ongoing fish advisories. 
  • Long-term remedial action, reclamation, financial assurance, and monitoring plans to protect environmental and human health for decades and generations to come.

Status

In January 2010, Rio Tinto received permits to refurbish and operate the Humboldt Mill.  On July 17, 2013 Rio Tinto sold the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill to Lundin Mining Corporation of Toronto, Canada.  The new company has continued construction at the mine and primarily at the mill, and plans to start production by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

Transportation Plan

Ore from the Eagle Mine will be transported by truck to the Humboldt Mill for processing (see Transporation Plan under the Eagle Mine project profile).  After processing at Humboldt, concentrated ore will be transported via rail to Canada for further processing.  A new railroad, including two miles of the recreational Iron Ore Heritage Trail being converted back to rail, is currently under construction and will connect with existing rails.

EPA Superfund Investigation

The Humboldt Mill site is currently under investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a potential Superfund Site eligible for listing on the National Priorities List due to historical mining waste and contamination affecting nearby wetlands and the middle branch of the Escanaba River Watershed.  It is uncertain how this investigation and EPA findings may be considered or influence current and future permits and operations at the site.