And mine opponents plan to file a lawsuit against the DNR approvals, as was done against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over its approval of mine-related permits.
The two DNR approvals are essential to the mining company moving forward with its proposed nickel and copper mine on the Yellow Dog Plains.
Earlier this month, DNR Director Rebecca Humphries postponed a decision on the approvals until some information on site selection, water infiltration and ground subsidence at the mine was addressed.
In a letter Monday to Kennecott, Thomas Wellman, manager of the DNR’s Minerals and Land Management Section, said meetings with mining company officials and written information have resolved the outstanding issues.
The two-page letter, which is posted on the DNR’s Web site along with other recent correspondence between Kennecott and the DNR, outlined changes that will be made to the lease and plan as a result of the clarified information.
Based on those changes, it is being recommended the director approve both the surface use lease and mining and reclamation plan at the Feb. 7 Natural Resources Committee meeting, Wellman stated in his letter. The NRC meeting will be held in Lansing.
Kennecott officials said today they were happy with Wellman’s announcement.
“We’re very pleased with the letter that was posted. It’s been a very long and thorough process where the issues have been vetted fully,” said Jon Cherry, project manager for Kennecott’s Eagle Project. “This is one step closer to us being ready to break in the spring and create some jobs in Marquette County.”
Cherry was among the Kennecott officials who met with the DNR in this month’s clarification sessions.
Michelle Halley, an attorney with the National Wildlife Federation in Marquette, said opponents of the mine did not anticipate a decision being scheduled sooner than March.
She said she reviewed the materials Kennecott submitted as a response to the DNR and she finds the answers are vague.
“It really does not address the substantive questions that were posed,” Halley said.
But Halley conceded the information was “good enough” for the DNR staff reviewing the permit and plan.
“Hopefully, Director Humphries is a bit more discerning,” Halley said. “She was last time.”
In December, DNR division chiefs recommended Humphries grant the approvals, pending satisfactory responses to DNR questions presented to Kennecott in a Dec. 7 letter.
Kennecott officials sent back information and held discussions with DNR officials, anticipating approval.
But on Jan. 10, Humphries announced the DNR needed further clarification before she would make her decision.
On Dec. 14, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials announced three permit approvals for the Kennecott mine.
As a result, 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, trying to block the mine.
All five of the state permit approvals, along with a water quality permit approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are needed before the mining company could begin construction. In addition, the DEQ lawsuit and contested case petition are still pending.
Halley said the DNR could expect to be sued if Humphries finds in favor of the Kennecott project and grants the two approvals under consideration.
The DNR will continue to take public comment on the project until the final decision is announced.