Mining support

County board OKs resolution for mining industry

A member from a tour group of local teachers stands near the edge of the Empire Mine pit in 2012. The Marquette County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution in support of House Bill 4227 at a special meeting of the board Tuesday. The proposed bill and committee it would form are particularly significant with the idling and potential reopening of Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.’s Empire Mine in Richmond Township. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a resolution in support of legislation that aims to improve the future of the state’s mining industry.

The board held a special meeting Tuesday because it met last week as a committee of the whole due to several absent commissioners. Because a quorum wasn’t met, the remaining board members could not take formal action at the March 5 meeting.

House Bill 4227, introduced Feb. 21 by state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, aims to create the Committee of Michigan’s Mining Future, a 15-member body with governor-appointed representatives from “diverse areas of industry, state departments, environmental groups, tribal members and labor groups to meet the challenges and take advantages of opportunities for the future,” the resolution states.

Once created, the committee would aim to “ensure a comprehensive plan focused on ferrous, non-ferrous and aggregate mining industry needs such as infrastructure, transportation, energy, applied research, environmental quality, government policies, taxation, rural development, mining legacy cleanup funds and communications and public outreach,” according to the resolution.

“The mining industry is a vital economic contributor, not just for the Upper Peninsula and Marquette County, but for the state of Michigan,” board Chairman Gerald Corkin said, reading from the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting. “And it is in the best interest of Marquette County and the state of Michigan to strengthen sustainable mining practices for the future.”

CORKIN

In Marquette County, the proposed bill and committee it would form are particularly significant with the idling and potential reopening of Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.’s Empire Mine, commissioners said. The mining company is weighing its options between reopening the Empire Mine or investing in a mining operation in Nashwauk, Minnesota.

“I think it looks promising for something positive to happen (with the Empire Mine),” Corkin said. “If they come up with a partner for selling the pellets, it sounds like everything is in place with their plan to make it happen. In order (for Cliffs) to do anything in Minnesota, it could take many years. So I think there’s a very good chance that this could reopen here.”

The bill is also important for the remainder of the U.P., Corkin said at the March 5 meeting because of the “possibility of mining being developed in Menominee County as well as the Wakefield/Ontonagon area.”

Furthermore, Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves said at the company’s recent annual breakfast that he was glad to hear the county considering the resolution, commissioners said.

“He was very appreciative of the county’s support; Mr. Goncalves mentioned it in his speech to the main group that was there,” Corkin said. “So thank all of the commissioners and staff that have been supportive of mining and supportive of the Eagle Mine when it was developing.”

With the resolution being forwarded to all counties in Michigan, the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, the Michigan Association of Counties, U.P. legislators and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, commissioners said they are hoping to garner additional support for the bill.

“So now the ball is in our court to get the other counties and our reps to work with everybody to get this approved in Lansing,” Commissioner John DePetro said.

If the bill passes, the Committee of Michigan’s Mining Future would be responsible for providing “advisory legislative and policy recommendations to strengthen and develop sustainable mining practices in Michigan,” according to a news release from Cambensy’s office.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.