Perhaps the disastrous oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will persuade more people to pay attention to a contentious mining issue unfolding now in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Grassroots groups are fighting to stop the Rio Tinto/Kennecott Minerals Company from building a sulfide mine at Eagle Rock on the Yellow Dog Plains outside Marquette. Sulfide is the raw material that is processed into nickel, and residents are concerned about the environmental impact the mine could have on the environment and on the local economy’s income from tourism.
Their issues are covered in detail on these two websites:
One concern is that the license that the state of Michigan has granted to the mining company denies citizens any access to Eagle Rock for the next 40 years. Native Americans groups consider Eagle Rock sacred, and protesters have been camping out near the site, trying to draw attention to their issues.
The Marquette County Sheriff’s Department arrested Cynthia Pryor of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve earlier this year, and three women of the Anishinaabe tribe were subsequently arrested as well. In her blog on Huffington Post, Pryor wrote:
Our state government has sold us out on this public land heritage by placing the wealth and profit of Rio Tinto over the health and welfare of the people it represents. Not only do they fail to recognize the sacred value of Eagle Rock and the rights of the Anishinaabe, they have allowed this company to proceed without federal approval while arresting citizens under absurd charges for getting in the way of Rio Tinto’s plans.
The Stand for the Land rally at the Capitol organized by the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve featured numerous Michigan musicians sympathetic to the cause, including singer-songwriter Drew Nelson of Grand Rapids performing his song Eagle Rock, Song for the People. The video includes remarks from Pryor and Lee Sprague of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.