To the Journal editor:
This week the Superior Watershed Partnership hosted several community forums to talk about the Community Monitoring Program that Rio Tinto paid $300,000 to the Partnership to undertake.
Unfortunately, the Superior Watershed Partnership is making a huge mistake.
The Superior Watershed Partnership has no way to defend its actions when subjected to the most basic questions by those who know what proper regulation of the Eagle mine requires, like all hard rock mines the predominant concern is water pollution.
Unfortunately, government regulators have failed to properly regulate these operations. Now Rio Tinto wants you to believe that's not the case by having an independent review of a failed regulatory process. That's just not going to work when you have smart Yoopers watching the bottom line.
The Superior Watershed Partnership will tell you that initially they will conduct verification monitoring of all of the permit requirements of the Eagle mine? Does Superior Watershed Partnership have a comprehensive chemical analysis of a representative sample of the cores that were obtained to define the Eagle ore body?
No, they do not and without knowing exactly what contaminants to test for, the Superior Watershed Partnership joins the state of Michigan and EPA in bumping around in the dark, trying to guess what to analyze for.
Are the permit requirements that SWP will verify adequate in the first place? Again, no. It is a fact that the mine water discharges at Eagle are regulated by a basic groundwater permit issued by the state for what Rio Tinto has told EPA is a "system that does not distribute fluids below the surface of the ground."
You don't have to be a seasoned regulator to understand the failure here - a ground water permit - issued to regulate discharges from a system that doesn't discharge fluids below the surface of the ground.
Undertaking a monitoring program that sets out to verify the permit requirements under a failed regulatory process will only ensure that people distrust the Superior Watershed Partnership, in addition to Rio Tinto and the government regulators.
It's not too late for this well meaning partnership to see the light and they're going to get plenty of enlightenment from many community members who are well versed on the many complex aspects of this issue.