I fished this river (headwaters of the Salmon Trout) off of AAA road last August, and the stream is recovering nicely. AAA road is now, unfortunately, a pretty decent road, and this spot is now very easy to find. They put in a bunch of crushed rock, and improved the culvert and road here. The fishing was not easy, as it never is in a swampy, tag alder environment. But I caught more brookies than I ever have here, nothing huge, mostly 4-7", but I lost one that was close to a foot long (and this is small water in this upper stretch). I wonder what John Voelker would have to say about sulfide mining. If you talk to the locals, and I have family there near Ishpeming, many of them are actually NOT against sufide mining in the Yellowdog Plains.
I just finished up an ASL( Academic Service Learning) project on the proposed Eagle Project by Kennecott mining inc, where I worked with the county of Marquette and the local governors office. My opinion on the subject is not simple, it would eat up a few pages. I advise anyone to do a little research on both sides of the subject if they are interested, and feel free to ask me questions. It should probably be said that in this case, as in wisconsin, it is not really a "moretorium", the people of the state can't stop mining of any sort, just because they don't want it there.
For sure, Sam. Same here, could write pages on this, best to check all the info out there available. This particular area is very dear to my heart. When Kennicott first announced that they wanted to evaluate this ore deposit, I was only mildly alarmed. But when I first heard about the new culvert blowing out this past spring, and I saw the pictures, I wept, actually sobbed, and was pissed off. So I researched and learned as much as I could, made a trip and spent 2 weeks camping and fishing there, checking it out and talking to both locals and visitors. Even some HMC members, surprisingly, are not against the mining. I signed the petition against the mining, but I am on the fence right now, niether for nor against it. People may wonder how I could be in favor of of such a thing, but I have my reasons. Of course, I could be wrong, and there could be devistating consequences if mishaps were to occur.
Here is what Kennecott Minerals has to say about how environmentally safe their sulfide mining operation would be:
Can Sulfide Orebodies be Mined Safely?
Although preventing and treating ARD (acid rock drainage) are key environmental challenges, they both can be done safely and successfully. Scientists and engineers have studied the chemistry of ARD intensively over the last few decades. These studies have produced an understanding of ARD at the molecular level that has been used to prevent, control and treat ARD related issues at mines with sulfide orebodies.
In the simplest terms, ARD requires sulfide minerals, air (oxygen) and water to be produced. By eliminating any of these components from the equation, ARD can be prevented (e.g., synthetic covers, clay caps, etc.). Preventing oxidation of sulfide minerals is a critical step towards mitigating the environmental impacts of mining sulfide orebodies.
The science has also evolved to the point where minerals from a sulfide orebody can be analyzed from core samples to determine if the material even has the potential to generate ARD before it is excavated from the ground. This information is then used to prevent the onset of ARD as mentioned above or to contain ARD with engineered double liner systems.
Treatment processes also exist for ARD discharges that are proven effective and commonly used to treat water and/or wastewater.
Mining of sulfide orebodies in the 21st century can be done safely and in a way that is protective of human health and the environment. Kennecott Minerals Company (KMC) operated the Flambeau Copper Mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin in the mid 1990s. The Flambeau Mine was a sulfide orebody containing copper. KMC evaluated the potential for various minerals within the orebody to generate ARD and designed a prevention, containment and treatment system before mining operations commenced. The mine operated from 1993 through 1997 within 140 feet of the Flambeau River without any significant environmental incidents where permit requirements were exceeded. Post mine-life monitoring of the site continues without incident. KMC will monitor groundwater for 40 years to demonstrate continued success.
The environmental consequences from some early mining operations have left an historical legacy of negative environmental impacts that still affect the publics perception of mining. A better scientific understanding of these environmental impacts, including ARD, coupled with advances in mining and environmental technologies, have enabled modern miners to better predict, plan for, and prevent or control adverse environmental impacts. Modern mining operations, like KMCs Flambeau Mine, have also demonstrated that the long-term environmental impacts of sulfide mining can be adequately addressed. Link:
Here is what the Wisconsin DNR, which Kennecott refers to, has to say:
Monitoring results have indicated that groundwater levels have nearly returned to pre-mining conditions. Subtle differences in water table elevations exist between pre-mining and post-mining conditions near the southern portion of the backfilled pit. Comparison of groundwater levels for 2000, 2001 and 2002 suggest that this condition is becoming less pronounced. Minor differences in groundwater elevations within the backfilled pit were expected because of the nature of the waste rock that was backfilled, as compared to the surrounding bedrock that was left in place.
On a volume per volume basis, the majority of the water is flowing through the till and very little water is moving through the bedrock and backfill material. Resaturation of the waste rock by groundwater is the primary mechanism that is expected to control the long-term environmental stability of the backfilled materials. This is important because saturated conditions have been shown to minimize additional oxidation of sulfide minerals and ultimately the formation of acid drainage, which is a significant concern at many mining sites worldwide.
The first few rounds of samples collected during 1999 from the wells installed within the backfilled waste rock indicated that elevated levels of sulfate, copper, manganese and iron were present. These results were not a surprise and were approximately equal to or slightly greater than the concentrations originally predicted during permitting and later updated prior to backfilling. Parameters that are highly sensitive to environmental conditions and geochemical reactions, including manganese and iron, are more difficult to accurately predict in the short-term. Analysis of data collected during 1999 thru 2002 suggests that for two wells (at one well nest) manganese and iron concentrations may be increasing, but are stable or decreasing elsewhere within the pit wells. Given the limited number of sample results available from monitoring wells within the backfilled pit, it is difficult to make any long-term predictions of how the site will perform. However, the monitoring results are consistent with the characteristics predicted during permitting and are not at levels that pose a threat to water quality in the Flambeau River.
In addition to the wells located within the backfilled pit, one well located between the pit and the Flambeau River has exhibited elevated concentrations of copper, sulfate, and manganese since mine pumping stopped. However, recent data suggests that these constituents are decreasing (copper concentrations are currently at the level of detection). This well was drilled within the mineralized bedrock just outside of the former pit boundary. During active mining, the surrounding mineralized rock was dewatered and the sulfide minerals underwent oxidation. Accordingly, it would be expected that metal concentrations would increase temporarily until the sulfide minerals were resaturated with groundwater and accumulated oxidation products are flushed from the system. This hypothesis was later confirmed by water quality data collected during mining. At the time it was not a significant concern because groundwater near this well was flowing into the pit where it was collected, treated and then discharged to the Flambeau River.
In a manner similar to the process described above, once the groundwater elevation recovers, and the initial flush of oxidation products is complete, groundwater quality in this well is expected to improve. In fact, sampling results since late 1999 indicate a significant decrease in copper (to the level of detection), sulfate and other parameters. However we cannot yet state whether it is a permanent trend given the limited number of sampling events. Nevertheless, the water quality sampled in this well is within the range of water quality expected by the analysis conducted during the permitting process, though concentrations of iron and manganese are slightly greater than predicted. However, water of this quality and rate of flow is not having a significant deleterious impact on the Flambeau River.
While these early monitoring results are important, it will be even more critical to review future results to verify that the concentrations of certain parameters decrease as was predicted. The observation of trends and long-term water quality sampled from wells within the backfilled pit will indicate whether the control measures, specifically limestone addition and reflooding, have been effective in minimizing the release of contaminants and additional oxidation of the sulfide minerals. We will continue to monitor the conditions at the reclaimed Flambeau Mine for many years to come. Monitoring results will be compared to predictive analyses and modeling, and if substantial differences are observed to the extent that noncompliance with the permit conditions and applicable regulations could occur, the company would be required to take action to prevent adverse impacts. Link:
I am dead set against this type of mining in a wilderness area of our Upper Peninsula. The links prove that the headwaters will be affected in two negative ways. The water table will be affected and leaching of some minerals will be found throughout the entire river system. This is one of the only remaining rivers that rare Coaster Brook Trout use to spawn in. Mining this area would be similar to allowing oil drilling in the ANWR. Folks in the UP may be all for this, but most Alaskans are for drilling in the ANWR and cutting old growth timber in Alaskas Tongass. Jobs and big business still take precedence over preserving what little natural habitat we have not already destroyed. While we complain about habitat loss and extinction of species because of it, we continue to rape the land for the almighty dollar. I agree that everyone should look at all of the possible repercussions from this possible mining operation in a wilderness area of our UP. I'm for waiting through the 40 year study in Wisconsin before we allow this mining. By then I'll be dead or close to it.
The sad part is prolly 99% of Mi population have never seen the Yellow Dog Plains or the Huron Mountains, so have no clue what will be destroyed. I really hope the members of the HMC use their money and political clout to put a end to this. Riverman
This pic was taken about 10 miles west of the proposed site.
we have mined and drilled all the good spots. its time to mine and drill the refuges.that way the next generation will be forced to find clean alternative energy instead of fighting over it like we do now.go for it.
There are relatively clean, alternative energy sources available now. The only trouble with them is that they either cost more than gasoline, or they have other characteristics objectionable to some people, like nuclear power.
However, this thead is about sulfide mining in the UP. I return us now to our regularly-scheduled programming.
It's good to see the passion that this thread has inspired. If you love to fish the brookie and have never visited this area, don't wait too long to make the trip. With a bit of exploration, you will find some fine trout water and some beautiful scenery. You're all helping me off of the fence. Itch
A forum community dedicated to hunting and fishing enthusiasts in the Michigan area. Come join the discussion about safety, gear, tackle, tips, tricks, optics, hunting, gunsmithing, reviews, reports, accessories, classifieds, and more!