Opponents of a proposed mine on the Yellow Dog Plains were dealt a credibility setback Friday as the result of an incident we hope will not become a trend.
Opponents to Kennecott Minerals Co.’s proposed nickel mine pirated a meeting Friday of the Kennecott Eagle Project Community Advisory Group.
The 15-member advisory panel — composed of members ranging from county and township government officials to interest groups including Trout Unlimited and the Upper Peninsula Construction Council — has been meeting quarterly since 2004. The group was forced to prematurely adjourn its Friday meeting when mine opponents disrupted the session.
The protesters, numbering about 20, were members of the general public and an activist group based in Marquette called Yellow Dog Summer.
The demonstration began after the advisory panel had been meeting for about an hour and had just returned from a break.
“A group of protesters began to form a line at the back of the table and one woman started a speech,” said Amy Clickner, chief executive officer of the Lake Superior Community Partnership and an advisory group member. “We listened and then someone else began another speech. We asked how many people were going to speak and they said, ‘Every person in this room is going to say something.’ At that point we took a motion to adjourn the meeting.”
Prior to the meeting being disrupted, Michelle Halley, of the National Wildlife Federation, took her ball and went home by resigning from the group. She called the group “a charade.” Except for reducing mine opposition’s voice on the advisory panel, her resignation is of little consequence.
Agenda topics that weren’t heard because of the adjournment included clarification of additional Kennecott mining exploration targets in the area and a plan to use the abandoned Humboldt Mill for a refining center servicing the Kennecott mine.
Therefore, as the result of the misbehavior by a small number of mine protesters, topics important to our community could not be addressed. That is not acceptable in this community. Left wing San Francisco or Ann Arbor theatrics don’t play well here. Protesters who shut down the meeting did nothing to further the cause of mine opponents. In fact, the opposite is true.
And Friday’s incident is not the only tactic opponents of the mine are using that we do not agree with. For instance, some opponents of the mine are publicly maintaining that mining will damage the region’s tourist industry. This area was built on mining and logging. A new mine would not damage the tourism aspect of the region’s economy.
Local residents should remember that if it were not for mining, many Upper Peninsula communities, including Marquette, would not exist. The Mining Journal has maintained throughout the mine permiting process that the community should trust the expertise of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources to determine whether a Kennecott mine can be operated in an environmentally safe manner. We prefer to let the facts speak for themselves and leave scare tactics, along with the deplorable behavior exhibited Friday, out of the equation.
A couple of the advisory panel members graciously stayed and listened to the protest statements being made, which under the circumstances was more than the protesters deserved. The protesters’ behavior should embarrass rational people who oppose the mine and understand that such tactics serve only to erode credibility.
We encourage civil debate on the issue of whether or not Kennecott should be allowed to build its mine in our region, and pledge to continue publishing that dialogue. We will also strive to expose scare tactics for what they are, and condemn publicity stunts like the one that took place Friday.