Sulfide Mining and the Great Lakes

Mining and exploration companies are swarming the upper Great Lakes, especially Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, northern Wisconsin and the arrowhead region of northern Minnesota. 

Lake Superior is in the bull’s eye. Mining companies are seeking -- and finding -- deposits of minerals including copper, nickel, gold and other metals. This mining rush must be checked to protect Lake Superior and it's tributaries.  In addition to state agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must step-up its oversight and protect the Great Lakes from the exceptional risks of sulfide mining.

Sulfide Mining Map

Sulfide Mining Threat to Lake Superior

The threat of sulfide mining looms across the Upper Peninsula's backwoods. The proposed Copperwood Mine beside the Porcupine State Park plans to leave a huge mine waste tailings pond just feet away from Lake Superior and its tributaries, yet the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has issued preliminary approval. HudBay’s Back Forty project on the Menominee River is expected to submit applications any day. Rio Tinto has started constructing its Eagle Mine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where it will seriously harm wildlife and natural areas in the Great Lakes basin.

Watch our award-winning documentary film, "Mining Madness, Water Wars: Great Lakes in the Balance" to see the story of people and wildlife in the Lake Superior basin under threat  from the Rio Tinto mine.


Failure of Region's Laws on Sulfide Mining

The Eagle Mine was the first test of new Michigan laws governing sulfide mining, and so far, the State of Michigan has failed. 

Despite voluminous expert testimony stating the danger of the sulfide mine to people, wildlife and natural areas, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued Kennecott Eagle Minerals permits in 2007 to perform sulfide mining on the public lands National Wildlife Federation and its partners now await a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals where  they have sought leave  to appeal.


Mining Companies Lobby for Lax Rules Amidst Contamination

In Wisconsin, the closed Flambeau Mine site is causing contamination in a stream and intense industry pressure there is prompting efforts at weakening the state’s mining laws. In Minnesota, several mines are on the drawing board with one huge open pit mine, the NorthMet Mine, having proceeded through a significant portion of the permitting process. Like Wisconsin, the mining industry in Minnesota is lobbying continually for more industry-friendly laws.

The history of sulfide mining is rife with contamination, Harmful acid mine drainage is an inescapable byproduct of sulfide mining and results in miles of decimated streams and rivers.  The Great Lakes region must carefully protect its most precious resource, fresh water. We hope you will join and support our efforts. 

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