Announcement of the groups’ opposition came as a state Department of Environmental Quality public comment period on the proposed approval of a Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company nickel and copper mine closed Wednesday.
The chapters include Laughing Whitefish Audubon of Marquette, Bay de Noc Audubon of Escanaba, Chappee Rapids Audubon of Menominee, and Lee LeBlanc Audubon of Iron River.
These organizations promote education, enjoyment and wise use of the Upper Peninsula’s natural resources with an emphasis on protection of birds, bird habitat, and other wildlife.
“We can’t afford to put such important bird habitat at risk of acid mine drainage from sulfide-based mining,” said Natasha Koss of Marquette, a Michigan Audubon Society Board Member and the representative of the U.P. chapters. “The Yellow Dog Plains and Salmon Trout River Watershed are home to so many unique bird species that depend on the water-rich area for at least one stage in their life cycle.”
There are other areas of the U.P. being explored for sulfide-based mining in addition to the Salmon Trout River Watershed and Yellow Dog Pains.
The Chappee Rapids Audubon Society first contacted Koss about their concern for the potential sulfide-based mine in the Stephenson area known as the Back 40 Project.
Sensitive bird areas such as the Shakey Lakes savannah and the proposed Carney Fen Natural Area are at risk if this mine were to go through, Koss said. Both areas are high quality birding hot spots attracting many visitors each year.
“Water is life and we all depend on it for survival,” Koss said. “Whether you’re talking about the aquatic microorganisms, the fish in the river or the eagles that eat the fish; it’s a system that works in harmony.”
“When this type of mining takes place in such a water-intensive environment, and acid mine drainage is factored in, the whole system has the potential of being disrupted.”
This is why the four U.P. Chapters of Michigan Audubon Society are opposing this type of mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Koss said.