Editor’s Note: The following is a summary of the proposed copper mining site Copperwood. Like any other mining, the proposed mine will have dire impacts on the ecology, health and human rights of the area, in this case, the Porcupine mountains and Lake Superior. The following text is compiled from the website Protect the Porkies.
Protect The Porkies is a grassroots campaign dedicated to resisting the development of a metallic sulfide mine in extreme proximity to Lake Superior, Porcupine Mountains State Park, and the North Country Trail. There has never been a metallic sulfide mine which did not contaminate water; Copperwood would be the closest such mine to Lake Superior in history; Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on the planet, representing 10% of the world’s surface freshwater.
It’s not hard to piece these facts together to see why the proposed mine is an atrocious and criminal idea. In a world which is getting hotter and drier, in which many cities must import water from hundreds of miles away, protecting freshwater is THE battle of our time.
All of the images on this piece were taken from Protect the Porkies.
Metallic sulfite mine would poison Lake Superior
Canadian company Highland Copper Inc. wants to drill under the Presque Isle River to seize minerals from directly beneath Porcupine Mountains State Park, the largest tract of mixed old growth forest remaining in the Midwest.
Unlike the White Pine North Mine (closed 1997 due to environmental concerns) which consisted of ore graded at 20% purity, Copperwood’s ore grade is estimated at only 1.5%, meaning that nearly 99% of mined material will be stored as 50+ million tons of heavy-metal laden waste rock on topography that slopes towards Lake Superior. Toxins of concern include mercury, arsenic, selenium, and lead. The data show that more than a third of tailings dams are at high risk of causing catastrophic damage to nearby communities if they crumble, and there are already multiple instances of serious failures.
Canadian company Highland Copper is a junior exploration company with zero experience opening and operating a mine, which already has a track record of violating permits and degrading wetlands. But they aren’t letting that slow them down: even though they lack key permits related to stream alterations and engineering of their tailings disposal facility, they have already begun their “summer site prep” of clearcutting and wetlands destruction.
Freshwater seas need protection
In addition to destroying 50+ acres of wetlands and forever altering the course of 5 streams, the project would be permitted to dump half a million gallons of wastewater per day into Namebinag Creek, which empties into Lake Superior. Namebinag Creek is also home to populations of Redside Dace, classified in Michigan as an Endangered Species requiring legal protection.
97% of Earth’s water is salt water and thus not potable. Of the remaining 3%, the majority is frozen in the ice caps and thus not accessible. Of what remains, Lake Superior represents a full 10% of the world’s surface freshwater.
There has never been a metallic sulfide mine which did not contaminate local water. The Chopperwood Mine would erect a tailings disposal facility holding 50+ million tons of heavy-metal laden waste-rock on topography sloping towards Lake Superior.
Even if the tailings dam holds, acid mine drainage is a certainty: sulfides will combine with water and air to create sulfuric acid — a.k.a. battery acid — which then steeps over waste-rock and river sediment to leach heavy metals into the environment.
The last old-growth forest
98% of this planet’s old growth forest have been cut. The 35,000 acres in Porcupine Mountains State Park represent the largest tract of mixed old growth remaining in the Midwest.
Let’s be clear: Porcupine Mountains State Park is not just any park. In 2022, the Porkies were ranked by users of Yelp.com as the “most beautiful State Park in America.” But company maps suggest Highland Copper seeks to drill beneath the Presque Isle River and extract minerals from directly under old-growth forest on Park property.
The mine would subject the area to heavy metal dust spewed up from hundreds of meters underground, to catch and carry on the wind for miles in all directions; twice-daily subterranean blasts which are known to disrupt the reproductive cycles of aquatic life; noise pollution and light pollution which will further impact the mating rituals and calls of wildlife. And it’s unlikely that acid mine drainage will turn around upon reaching the Park entrance, only a 15 second drive from the mine entrance road.
Clearcutting enables wildfires
Already Highland Copper has clearcut hundreds of acres of so-called “secondary” forest in preparation for the Chopperwood Mine. But there’s nothing secondary about the importance of such woods— in addition to existing for their own sake and providing homes for countless organisms, forest which is allowed to mature becomes a barrier against wildfires. As trees grow old, they develop thick fire-resistant bark and shed their lower limbs, thus creating a diverse canopy which is difficult to burn. In the dense shade below, mosses, lichens, and liverworts move in, and the ground grows into a moist sponge.
By replacing moist, shady conditions with hot dry desert with increased airflow, right in the middle of the woods, Highland Copper has greatly increased this area’s risk of wildfire. Not convinced? Consider that the Peshtigo Fire, the deadliest fire in American history, started specifically in a logging town.
At a time when wildfires are ravaging so many parts of the world, we should be doing everything we can to help our secondary forests mature, not replace them with a desert.
No more dark night skies
On the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior, the Presque Isle Campground at Porcupine Mountains State Park is one of the most popular in the Midwest. As a rustic campground, there is no electricity and no sewage dump. In just a short walk, visitors may reach three stunning waterfalls on the Presque Isle River or go fishing or swimming at the lakeshore.
Unfortunately, the Chopperwood Mine — in addition to subjecting the area to subterranean blasts, air pollution, and noise pollution — would be lit up like a casino all night long, effectively eliminating a clear view of the starry sky not just for the Presque Isle Area, but for miles around, potentially as far as Black River Harbor, another area of outstanding beauty.
In the 21st century, is there anything scarcer than a good view of the stars?
Home of wolf packs and fish
The 1500 acres encompassed by the mine site fall smack in the middle of a wolf pack’s territory, specifically the pack which travels between Black River Harbor and Presque Isle. It is one of only three wolf packs in the region.
A healthy, happy wolf pack is far scarcer than copper, and more valuable too. It is well known that large deer populations may over-browse riverbanks and bluffs around lakes. By keeping the deer population in check, wolves effectively prevent erosion— quite the opposite of Highland Copper, which is actively annihilating wetlands and rerouting streams.
The Anishinaabe Indians — also known as the Ojibwe — have fished the Presque Isle River and Lake Superior for hundreds of years and always been well-nourished. Unfortunately, fish are bio-accumulators of heavy metals, just like the kind which would be spewed from Chopperwood’s exhaust vents and leached from river sediment via acid mine drainage.
Redside Dace — an endangered species
In the 2009 biological monitoring report, populations of Redside Dace were found in both Namebinag and Unnamed Creek — two streams passing through the mine site which are planned to be rerouted. The Redside Dace is an Endangered Species in Michigan, and the Fishbeck, Carr, and Thompson report clearly states:
“Populations of Redside Dace within the Copperwood site should be protected from human-related impacts.”
Reishi provides medicine
Among the inhabitants of the ecosystem directly adjacent to the mine site is the Northern Reishi Mushroom (ganoderma tsugae). Prized for thousands of years in Chinese and Japanese medicine as “the Mushroom of Immortality,” the Reishi grows exclusively on Eastern Hemlock trees. Given that the Porkies hold the largest remaining tract of old growth Eastern Hemlocks — which have been all but eradicated in the East by the woolly adelgid — it is thus host to the largest and purest population of medicinal Reishi mushrooms in the country.
Unfortunately, like fish, mushrooms are bio-accumulators of heavy metals. One day, will mushroom foragers stop picking the Reishi for fear that a medicine has become a poison?
The last wild coastline
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was industrial sprawl. First you build a network of roads, then you build a mine, then you build parking lots for your 100 or so employees, then those employees want to live nearby so they buy up land and build houses, before you know it there’s a sewage system, an electrical grid, and a proposal to connect the Presque Isle Scenic Area to Black River Harbor via highway, right along some of the last wild coastline remaining, and though such a thing was once inconceivable, it now strikes us as perfectly reasonable, because the mine and its infrastructure have already paved the way.
You may think this scenario sounds like fear-mongering, but just look around you and the proof is everywhere: roads already press against the North Shore in Minnesota and Canada and along all the other Great Lakes. None of it happened overnight: such development unfolds not at the pace of a Hollywood action film, but at an ooze over the course of years, decades, lifetimes. Ecologists refer to this as the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. If we don’t draw a line in the sand now, soon there will be nothing left to draw a line in front of.
A temple in hell
As we moderns come to spend our time increasingly immersed in artificial environments — staring at screens and slogging through traffic — pilgrimages into the peace of Nature fulfill a crucial role: walking along the Presque Isle River, breathing deep the conifer-filtered air while listening to the hush of waterfalls— such experiences are sacred to many. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, atheists and animists too — all are welcome in the Universal Church of Nature.
By threatening this thriving outdoor recreation area with rock grinding, heavy metal exhaust, light pollution, industrial traffic, and acid mine drainage, Highland Copper might as well be burning a temple.
The operation would likely lead to audible rock grinding and subterranean blasts using toxic ammonium nitrate which would be felt for miles around, both on the North Country Trail and in the Presque Isle Scenic Area of the State Park, and possibly even at Black River Harbor. As with the development of Eagle Mine in Marquette County, we can expect non-stop industrial traffic on County Road 519, heavy metal-laden dust from exhaust vents which travels far from its source on the wind. Given that the Copperwood is a metallic sulfide mine, there remain concerns regarding acid mine drainage — irreversible contamination of wetlands and waterways.
Nawadaha, Manido, and Manabezho— these are the three waterfalls of the Presque Isle Scenic Area, which still bear the names of Anishinaabemanitous.
Long before Michigan, long before the arrival of Europeans, the Anishinaabe fished and foraged these lands. There was a nomadic settlement at the mouth of the Presque Isle River. Later, at that same beach, the Anishinaabe met to trade with French trappers. To this day, park-goers find arrowheads and other artifacts on the shore.
What tribute do we pay to this fine history by allowing a foreign company to contaminate these waters, spew heavy metal dust on the wind, and potentially even drill beneath the River, beneath the old growth, even beneath Lake Superior?
Though the situation may seem dire, there is still time to build opposition:
Highland Copper will not decide whether or not to greenlight construction until 2024, and they are still lacking $250 million required to initiate their project. But in the meantime, they are already clearcutting forest, rerouting streams, and destroying wetlands, so there is no time to lose.
If we as a society do not draw a line in front of protecting freshwater seas and old growth forest, then it means we won’t draw a line anywhere, and that is a very scary place to be as a species. So please, join the campaign today by taking action:
Sign the petition and pass it on to others; in 2024, we plan to bring the petition off the Internet and into the real world by hand-delivering it to the Governor’s office.
Reach out to Michigan’s politicians; even if you are not a resident, tell them that the outdoor recreation industry in Michigan is over 10 times the size of mining, and no state which entertains such an atrocious project will receive a single dollar of your tourist money.
And remember, Protect The Porkies is not an organization— we are a movement, and everyone is invited to be a part. We won’t win by following their playbook, but by using our creativity to come up with our own.
Got ideas? Do not hesitate to reach out: ProtectThePorkies@gmail.com
On another note…
DGR conducted its annual fundraiser on Ecology of Spirit. If you have missed it, you can view it here. You can also visit our auction for paintings, books, brownies and conversations. The auction will remain open till October 31.
The following two short excerpts are taken verbatim from Daughter’s of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron, first published in 1981 .
The stories and legends handed down from the Nootka women of Vancouver Island are more poignant, more relevant than ever. Listening, learning, doing and engaging in serious resistance as women of strength may make a difference to the destruction of earth. There is a lot of work to be done.
The Warrior Women
“In the time before the strangers came, women were fighters same as men, and got the same trainin’. Not all members of the women’s warrior society were members of the secret society of women, but all the members of the warrior society. A woman warrior recognized the face of the enemy and was prepared to do whatever was necessary to defeat it.”
“Sometimes the women warriors would meet without the men, to sit in a circle and talk women talk, and if a woman had somethin’ botherin’ her, or puzzlin’ her, or scarin’ her, or makin’ her feel uneasy, she’d say what it was. She could take all the time she needed to talk about it, but it was expected she’d put some of her own time into findin’ the words and not talk in circles, endlessly, takin’ up everyone else’s time.”
“Then the other women in the circle who had maybe had somethin’ the same happen in their lives would talk about it, and what they’d done, or hadn’t done, or should have done, and sometimes out of it would come an answer for the sister with the problems. And even if not, sometimes, it was enough to just have been heard and given love”.
“It was expected that besides just talkin’ about what was botherin’ you, you’d do something about it. Usually it’s better to do almost anythin’ than let things continue if they’re botherin’ you. But sometimes the best thing you can do is nothin’. Sometimes you have to wait for the right Time before you can do”.
“A woman would come to the circle as often as she needed, but the circle wasn’t there to encourage a woman only to talk about her problems. The first three times you came with the same story, the woman would listen and try to help. But if you showed up a fourth time, and it was the same old tired thing, the others in the circle would just get up and move and re-form the circle somewhere else. They didn’t say the problem wasn’t important, they just said, by movin’, that it was your problem and it was time you did somethin’ about it, you’d taken up all the time in other people’s lives as was goin’ to be given to you, and it was time to stop talkin’ and do somethin’.
A woman might not know what was botherin’ her. And it was fine to go to the circle, or even to ask to have one formed, and just sit with women, and listen and maybe get strength from smiles and cuddles and just bein’ with women you knew loved you”.
“A warrior woman had to be able to recognize the face of the enemy or she couldn’t be a warrior woman. [. . .] A person who couldn’t control her bad moods or temper would lose her headband until she learned control because ragin’ around at nothin’ is wastin’ energy needed against the enemy.”
The Face Of Old Woman.
“We must reach out to our sisters, all of our sisters, and ask them to share their truth with us, offer to share our truth with them. And we can only trust that this gift, from woman to woman, be treated with love and respect, in a way opposite from the way the evil treated the other things this island had. Rivers are filthy that used to be clean. Mountains are naked that used to be covered with trees.
The ocean is fighting for her life and there are no fish where there used to be millions, and this is the work of cold evil. The last treasure we have, the secrets of the matriarchy, can be shared and honoured by women, and be proof there is another way, a better way, and some of us remember it.”
With gratitude to Anne Cameron for her work.
In this excerpt from the original article, written by Bong S. Sarmiento and published in Mongabay on 30 August 2020, Gong describes how ‘authorities’ have yet to approve plans for a copper mine in the Tampakan are of the Philippines. The mines would affect ancestoral land and the lives of the mountain people.
By Bong S. Sarmiento/Mongabay
Officials Quash Plan, For Now, To Develop Philippines’ Biggest Copper Mine
- The Philippine municipality of Tampakan has canceled an agreement with Sagittarius Mines, Inc. to develop a $5.9 billion copper and gold mine on the island of Mindanao.
- Municipal councilors criticized the “lopsided” nature of the deal that they said had not been periodically reviewed as required and had sold the community short.
- The Tampakan project has faced opposition since mineral reserves were discovered there in the ’90s, with pushback coming from various levels of government, Indigenous communities, the Catholic church, environmentalists, and even communist rebels.
- An Indigenous group that has taken up arms against the project has warned of more bloodshed should the project go ahead on their ancestral lands.
SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines
Officials in the southern Philippines have canceled a $5.9 billion project to exploit Southeast Asia’s largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserves, but have left open the possibility of the venture being revived.
The municipal council of Tampakan, home to 40,000 people in the province of South Cotabato, alleges that Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) failed to honor its side of the agreement governing the development of the mine. That deal, the municipal principal agreement (MPA), is supposed to be reviewed and updated every four years, but this hasn’t been done since 2009. There were attempts to review the MPA, but the mayor and other municipal representatives were excluded from the negotiations, the council said.
“After scrutiny, there are provisions in the MPA that are considered vague, disadvantageous to inhabitants of Tampakan and unduly tie the hands of the local government unit [LGU] of Tampakan,” the council said in a resolution dated August 10 but made public on August 14. “As such, the LGU cannot sit and fold its arms not to intervene in any action initiated by its people if, indeed, their rights have been violated contrary to some provisions of the agreement.”
The MPA was already a done deal rather than being negotiated with the government, the resolution said.
Municipal legislators say they’re no longer interested in reviewing or updating the 2009 MPA with the company but are open to creating or formulating a new agreement, which means SMI could still pursue the mammoth Tampakan project under a new municipal agreement.
The resolution has been sent to relevant government agencies but SMI has yet to issue a statement as of the time this article was published. Mongabay sought comment from SMI officials but did not receive a response from the mining firm.
‘Lopsided,’ ‘no justice’
If approved, the Tampakan project would be the largest copper mine in the Philippines and among the largest in the world. The site is predicted to yield an average of 375,000 tons of copper and 360,000 ounces of gold in concentrate per year over a 17-year period. In 1995, the Philippine government granted the Tampakan project the contract to explore and develop the area’s mineral deposits through a financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA).
The MPA took effect in 1997, and since then SMI has paid Tampakan municipality at least 40 million pesos ($822,370 at current rates), or an average of 2.5 million pesos ($51,400) a year as part of its financial commitments, according to a 2013 state audit. But the terms of the deal are “lopsided,” the council noted in its recent decision.
Days before the council published its resolution, Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo criticized the rental rate that SMI was set to pay for the ancestral lands of the Blaan, the ethnic tribal group whose mountain home will be affected by the project.
Featured image: Creative Commons
This article was originally published in Mongabay on the 30 AUGUST 2020, you can find the full and original article here:
by Barriere Lake Solidarity
When: Thursday, June 1st, 4:15pm
Where: 65 Queen Street West, 8th floor, Toronto
Join us for a flash rally outside of the Annual General Meeting of Copper One – a mining company that has been relentlessly pursuing a claim on Barriere Lake’s land despite firm and repeated refusals by the community.
Community members will be driving to Toronto from Barriere Lake to attend the meeting and tell them there is no possible way they will ever get community consent to drill on Barriere Lake’s unceded Algonquin territory. Just like they’ve been doing since 2011.
The company’s claim covers a large area of the La Vérendrye wildlife reserve and a neighbouring area including the headwaters of the Ottawa River.
In spite of a government decision to suspend the company’s mining claims earlier in 2017, Copper One has repeatedly stated its intention to begin exploratory drilling on the territory of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have consistently refused mining exploration on the territory claimed by Copper One. This traditional and current-use territory of the community has been subject to agreements between the community and the governments of Quebec and Canada concerning the joint management of renewable resources, namely the Trilateral Agreement of 1991 and the Bilateral aggreement of 1998. The community has accepted some forms of development on this territory, but has repeatedly stated that mining is not acceptable.
The community objects to the Quebec’s Mining Act’s failure to require consultation with indigenous nations. The Mining Act also fails to allow integrated land use planning in respect of indigenous peoples’ rights and aspirations, including the possibility of saying “no” to mining claims located in culturally or ecologically sensitive areas.
Image Credit: Ryan Martinez Lewis
Deep Green Resistance (DGR) is dedicated to the fight against industrial civilization and its legacy of racism, patriarchy, and colonialism. For this reason, DGR would like to publicly state its support of the San Carlos Apache tribe and the residents of Superior, AZ in the fight to protect Oak Flat from the destructive and unethical practices of foreign mining giant Rio Tinto.
For over a decade the San Carlos Apache tribe and supporters have been fighting against profit-driven attacks on their land by the Superior, AZ based company Resolution Copper (RC), a subsidiary of the international mining conglomerate Rio Tinto. The foreign Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian mining company with a shameful history of environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and consorting with oppressive regimes around the globe.
Resolution Copper plans a massive deep underground copper mine in the Oak Flat area using a technique called block caving, in which a shaft is drilled more than a mile deep into the earth and the material is excavated without any reinforcement of the extraction area. Block caving leaves the land above vulnerable to collapse.
Despite this, Resolution Copper is set to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state. The 2,400-acre land, part of San Carlos Apache’s aboriginal territory, includes Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and nearby Apache Leap – a cliff where Apaches jumped to their death to avoid being killed by settlers in the late 19th century. The San Carlos Apaches and other Native people hold this land as sacred, where they conduct ceremonies, gather medicinal plants and foods, and continue to build connections with the land. The now public land is held in trust by the federal government and is also used by non-Native nature lovers for hiking, camping, bird watching and rock climbing, and is used for field trips by Boy Scout groups.
On December 4, 2014 the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included the Oak Flat Land exchange as an attachment to the annual must-pass defense bill. This particular version of the land exchange included in the NDAA (the “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013”) is the 13th version since the bill was first introduced in Congress in 2005 by former Congressman, Rick Renzi (later convicted in 2013 of multiple counts of corruption, including extortion, racketeering and other federal charges). AZ Senators McCain and Flake, responsible for sneaking this unrelated attachment into the NDAA, subverted the will not only of Native American Tribes, conservation organizations, the Superior Town Council, and others, but the will of the United States Congress which has forcefully rejected the land exchange for nearly 10 years. Flake, who previously worked for Rio Tinto at their uranium mine (co-owned by the Iranian government) in Namibia, acknowledged the bill could not pass the US Congress on its own merits.
Shortly after passing through the House, the NDAA was signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2014, exactly 5 years after he signed the “Native American Apology Resolution,” a little-noticed expression of regret over how the U.S. had abused its power in the past.
The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act demonstrates a total disregard for Native American concerns. Resolution Copper has also openly admitted to the fact that their process of mining would create significant land cracking and eventually subsidence. Another grave concern is the permanent damage to surface and groundwater. This mine will deplete enormous quantities of water and pollute it, which will devastate local communities.
Oak Flat is also a rare desert riparian area. Less than 10% of this type of habitat remains in Arizona. The land exchange would allow mining companies to avoid following our nation’s environmental and cultural laws and would bypass the permitting process all other mines in the country have followed. Since this mining would, by design, lead to the complete destruction of the Oak Flat area and potentially impact both Apache Leap and Gaan Canyon, the San Carlos Apache Tribe (along with over 500 other tribes across the country) strongly opposes it and the illegal land exchange.
Call for Solidarity
Indigenous peoples have always been at the forefront of the struggle against the dominant culture’s ecocidal violence. Beneath the violations of US law lies the glaring threat of sacred Apache land being further harmed and colonized. If RC is allowed to follow through with its mining plan, not only would this land be stolen from the Apaches, but it would be rendered unrecognizable.
There is a monumental need for solidarity work to save Oak Flat. The only acceptable action on the part of Resolution Copper is immediate cessation of any and all plans to mine in the ancestral home of the Apache people; anything else will be met with resistance, and DGR will lend whatever support it can to those on the front lines. The time to act is now!
For more information or to lend support, please visit the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition.
**DGR recognizes that members of settler culture are living on stolen land in the midst of a current and ongoing genocide of indigenous people and culture. We encourage those who wish to be effective allies to indigenous people to read our Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines.