DEQ sets public hearing for Eagle East

MARQUETTE — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public hearing to gather comments on its proposed decision to approve a permit amendment granting Eagle Mine’s request to mine the Eagle East mineral resource in western Marquette County.

The public hearing will be held from 6-9 p.m. Monday at Westwood High School auditorium at 300 Westwood Drive in Ishpeming.

The DEQ will also accept written comment on the proposed decision during the hearing and afterward until close of the public comment period at 5 p.m. Oct. 23.

Eagle East is located about 1.2 miles east of Eagle Mine, at a depth of about 3,000 feet beneath the surface. The proposed access ramp and deposit is in Michigamme Township. The existing surface facilities at Eagle Mine will continue to be utilized to support the proposed operations, according to the DEQ.

Joe Maki, spokesman for Upper Peninsula district office for the DEQ’s Oil, Gas and Minerals Division, said the permit amendment was submitted in March and the proposed decision issued Aug. 17.

The DEQ determined that Eagle Mine’s permit amendment meets the requirements of the law and that the proposed operation will not pollute, impair or destroy the air, water or other natural resources or the public trust in those resources, in accordance with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, according to the proposed decision.

The DEQ requested clarification and additional information from Eagle Mine, a subsidiary of Lundin Mining Corp., before the proposed decision was made. Maki said the information wasn’t related to environmental concerns.

“It is very deep so the environmental footprint from this is minimal, because it’s so far underground,” Maki said. “They are not adding any surface infrastructure because of mining Eagle East, so all of Eagle Mine, all of the surface expression that’s already there, is going to stay the same. None of it will be added to. So as far as the landscape, the landscape won’t look any different.”

At previous public meetings about Eagle East, supporters have touted jobs and economic impact while others have voiced environmental concerns.

Jen Heikkila, communications adviser for Eagle Mine, said in an email that the net present value of the ore deposit is estimated to be about $205 million.

Construction on the tunnel to reach the deposit began in July 2016. Completion is expected in 2019, with Eagle East ore scheduled for extraction in 2020, Heikkila said. Eagle East extends the life of mine into 2023.

Heikkila said 50 additional employees and contractors were hired to develop the underground access tunnel to Eagle East.

Regarding environmental safeguards, she said the operation is designed and built to manage and treat water in a manner that is protective of the environment.

“After three years of operations, under some of the strictest environmental laws in the country, we have proven that it can be done safely,” Heikkila said. “When mining operations are complete, restoration efforts will be implemented quickly and efficiently.”

Heikkila said at the end of the project, it’s Eagle Mine’s goal to see any disturbed land be reclaimed to establish a self-sustaining ecosystem, with all development rock returned to the mine and post-closure management and monitoring lasting for 20 years after reclamation.

“It will be restored to the pre-mining landscape using native vegetation to promote enhanced wildlife habitat,” she said. “The final land use will be compatible with existing uses on adjacent properties.”

Environmental advocacy groups did not reply to The Mining Journal’s request for comment by press time Saturday night, but Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition President Horst Schmidt said UPEC will be attending the hearing.

Participants in Monday’s hearing will have the chance to fill out attendance cards at the entrance of the auditorium to indicate whether they intend to speak. After opening comments, participants will be called to speak in the order of cards received. Presentations will be limited to three minutes, with additional time offered if time allows.

Send written comments to: MDEQ Eagle East Permit Amendment, Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals, 1504 W. Washington St., Marquette, 49855; or via email to DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including “Eagle East Proposed Decision” as the subject.

The Mining Permit Application Amendment, proposed decision and other pertinent documents may be accessed online at www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3311_18442-359902–,00.html.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.

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