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Lawsuits filed against DEQ

December 21, 2007
By JOHN PEPIN, Journal Munising Bureau
MARQUETTE — Four groups opposed to the controversial Kennecott Minerals Company nickel and copper mine on the Yellow Dog Plains have filed suit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a week after the state agency granted principal permits for the project to the mining company.

The National Wildlife Federation, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Huron Mountain Club and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve filed a contested case petition and a lawsuit against the DEQ.

The groups said this filing is the first step in a challenge to try to halt the mine. More legal action is expected within days.

"The opponents of the mine have presented MDEQ with over 1,000 pages of unequivocal evidence that Kennecott’s proposed sulfide mine does not meet the state’s legal requirements and would result in profound pollution, impairment, and destruction of air, water and other natural resources," said Michelle Halley, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation in Marquette. "The MDEQ has issued permits that are based upon defective, inadequate and incomplete applications and are therefore illegal."

A news release said the contested case objection and lawsuit focuses directly on Michigan’s new nonferrous metallic mining law and the DEQ’s failure to enforce the law and the prescribed standards and rules.

"Opponents of the mine have consistently fought the project because the construction and operation of the mine, as proposed, will result in the pollution of the environment and the destruction of natural resources in the Yellow Dog Plains, due to scientific and engineering defects in the design of the mine," Halley said. "The contested case and lawsuit will address these issues, including the likelihood of subsidence of the mine, the probability of acid mine drainage, the irreversible impact of wetlands draw down that far exceeds Kennecott’s assumptions, and the pollution of the groundwater and the air."

Kennecott Spokeswoman Deb Muchmore said the mining company was not surprised by the opposition action.

"We’re reviewing the complaint that was filed Thursday. The opponents have indicated that legal action was going to be part of their effort." Muchmore said. "Unfortunately, legal action is part of these kinds of projects, pretty much everywhere. And unfortunately, it ends up dividing the community."

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