Changes may be coming to Eagle Mine operations

It comes as good news that local residents — including and especially those in the environmental community — will have an opportunity to comment on a change in the permit that regulates activities at the Eagle Mine, once the company that owns the mine asks for it.

Mine officials, we learned recently, started work in July on a new tunnel that, once completed, will reach an entirely new ore body. Named Eagle East, this new high-grade nickel and copper deposit is physically located some 2,500 feet lower than the ore body currently being mined.

Eagle East, situated about one mile east of the Eagle Mine site on Escanaba State Forest land in Michigamme Township, was discovered about two years ago. The existing permit covered the start of the new tunnel but an amendment to the permit will be needed to finish the work.

A Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official in Marquette said recently that Lundin Mining, the Toronto, Canada-based company that owns Eagle Mine, hasn’t formally applied for the permit amendment. But once it does, DEQ officials will have 30 days to determine if the amendment is “significant.”

Assuming that determination is made, public hearings will be set as a part of that process. Lundin officials have said development of Eagle East could extend work at the site to 2023, something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Few issues in this neck of the woods have proven as divisive as development of the Eagle Mine, initially by Kennecott Corp. and later Lundin. Hundreds of protestors camped out at the site, in some cases for weeks, to oppose the project. People are still unhappy about it — years after actual ore started being removed from the ground for processing at the Humboldt Mill in Humboldt Township.

And that’s why locals need to be heard on this issue. Public hearings will provide the state with a solid basis upon which to make a decision. The key is good communication, something that wasn’t apparent in great abundance several years ago, when development first started.

We look forward to that process unfolding. Hopefully the sides can find common ground.