Eric Hansen is the author of “Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” and “Hiking Wisconsin”. In this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he has an editorial titled Headwaters are no place for toxic new mining that begins:
Take a moment to think about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the nearby patches of Wisconsin, Lake Superior and Lake Michigan that border it. Picture the sparkling waterfalls, blueberries, brook trout and wave-washed shores there â€” the multitude of reasons so many think of this as God’s Country.
Thing is, change is in the air â€” and there’s a fair chance that it won’t be a good thing for the unspoiled waters of the U.P. â€” or for our water quality here, downstream, in Wisconsin.
New proposals for mining in the U.P. involve a method â€” metallic sulfide mining â€” known for its record of toxic water pollution.
These metallic sulfide mining projects are an alarming new threat to the Upper Great Lakes that has gone largely unnoticed in Wisconsin, or elsewhere in the region outside of Michigan.
Are we, as a state and region, prepared for a metallic sulfide mining district in the U.P.? Have we done a thorough assessment of the risks involved and the long-range impact this could have on our groundwater, streams and lakes?
With two proposed projects (Kennecott Eagle north of Marquette on Lake Superior and Aquila Resources Back40 project just a stone’s throw from the Menominee River and the Wisconsin border) and many, many more prospected sites (see map), the question “Are we ready?” is a darn good question to ask.
Through virtue of our work with an organization called Save the Wild UP, we’ve been following the story of sulfide mining in Michigan for years. It’s frankly stupefying that a mining technology that has killed fish and entire rivers, lain waste to lakes and as currently planned would actually spew tons of sulfide mining dust in the air as a kind of giant acid rain machine is still being considered at all.
Even more than the Lower Peninsula, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula depends on tourism and outdoor recreation for its livelihood and a couple hundred jobs would do nothing to offset the damage that news of mine accidents and poisoned rivers, lakes and air would generate. Once a mine opens in Michigan, so will the floodgates of a mineral rush that is virtually guaranteed to forever change the face of Michigan and our priceless waters. For it to happen without a public debate, behind closed doors is something we can’t allow to happen.
The photo above is just one of many in the Downstream group on Flickr, where almost 100 people have added one photo each to be paired with the song A Letter from Downstream by Daisy May Erlewine. The result is a fascinating look at the meaning of water in all our lives. I think more than any photo in the Downstream group, this one for me says why we shouldn’t allow huge corporations to bet their profits against the future of the Great Lakes. These waters are all of ours, and those of generations to come.
Eric concludes his editorial:
This is our region’s spiritual homeland, the headwaters country of our planet’s finest collection of fresh water.
Let us think long and hard before risking that notable resource by allowing metallic sulfide mining to get its foot in the door at such a critical location.
Let us heed Gov. Milliken and join our voices to protect both a land and its pristine water that mean so much to so many of us. Our grandchildren will thank us.