Dear Editor,

In his recent letter to the EagleHerald, Nathan Conrad paints concerned citizens as “known anti-mining” “opponents” who are trying to “obstruct and mislead.” In fact, we’re local residents concerned about the Back Forty sulfide mine, which will destroy clean water and other natural resources. Unlike Conrad’s Natural Resource Development Association, we’re 100 percent volunteer — no paid staff, no lobbyists. We hired well-respected experts at The Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2) to assist with the complex technical review of the proposed Back Forty mine permit.

Conrad’s letter made false statements, including:

■ “According to The Center for Science in Public Participation own website, since 2007, the organization has been providing technical support to a loose coalition of groups opposed to the proposed mine.” False. This refers to the Pebble Mine, not the Back Forty.

■ “Furthermore, the same local environmental groups opposed to mining previously hired CSP2 to review Eagle Mine’s permits.” False.

■ (Aquila) “received all state and federal permissions required for the construction and commencement of operations at the Back Forty Project.” False. Aquila’s permits are replete with unmet special conditions — incomplete or missing environmental studies, infrastructure designs, financial assurances, etc. No construction or operations can take place until all conditions are satisfied.

When Conrad said the mine received “four final permits” he meant:

■ Mining permit — defunct, in litigation

■ Air pollution permit — defunct, being modified

■ Wetland permit — wetland destruction, in litigation

■ NPDES permit — pollutant discharge to the Menominee River

Aquila rushed headlong in pursuit of these permits, desperate to meet investor deadlines to get more funding. But haste makes waste, as the saying goes. Aquila’s permits were shoddy and must be amended. A fifth permit is under review for the tailings dam, one of the mine’s riskiest features.

Mining and milling will obliterate this scenic area. The true riches of the place aren’t found underground, but in the flowing river, sturgeon, mussels, native plants, ancient garden beds, and the burial mounds belonging to ancestors of the Menominee people.

Lowered water quality. Lost wetlands. The industrialization of yet another wild place. These are the Back Forty’s permitted environmental impacts.

Aquila’s “commitment to clean mining” is totally meaningless. Millions of tons of reactive waste tailings raise the permanent threat of groundwater contamination or catastrophic dam failure. Contaminated waters from the pit will seep into the river. Air pollution — mercury, lead and other metals — will settle nearby and accumulate in lakes. This is how clean water is lost: Permit by permit, to a thousand cuts.

Did Conrad read the permits? “Clean mining” claims do not change the devastating facts of the Back Forty project. We look forward to CSP2’s technical review.

 

Kathleen Heideman

Mining Action Group of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Houghton, Mich.