State Roundup

Operations begin at new Upper Peninsula mine

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - Work has started at an underground nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula following a 12-year legal and political struggle over the $800 million project.

Toronto-based Lundin Mining Corp. announced mining began Tuesday and it is ramping up production of nickel and copper concentrates. The mine employs more than 300 people for production and is the only U.S. mine where nickel is the primary targeted mineral.

Ore from the Eagle Mine, located in Marquette County, is being shipped to Humboldt Mill and processed into nickel and copper concentrates. The concentrates will be shipped by rail starting mid-October. The mine is expected to reach full production rates next year.

Environmental groups, a Native American tribe and a private hunting and fishing club fought to prevent the mine from being built since Kennecott Minerals Co. conducted exploratory drilling in 2002, saying it poses numerous ecological risks. Lundin now owns the mine.

Opponents contend the mine poses a serious risk to groundwater and the Salmon Trout River, saying that if sulfide mineral ores are exposed to air and water, a chemical reaction generates acid that can pollute waters. The state, however, declared the mine structurally sound.

In August, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a decision by state regulators to allow construction of the mine. A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the Department of Environmental Quality was within the law to approve mining and groundwater discharge permits.

During the mine's projected 8-year life, Lundin expects that 360 million pounds of nickel will be extracted. Officials also estimate that the mine will yield 295 million pounds of copper, and small amounts of other metals.

Great Lakes
EPA releases 5-year plan to improve Lakes

CHICAGO (AP) - The Obama administration announced a new 5-year plan for the Great Lakes on Wednesday that will accelerate efforts to address toxic pollution, invasive species and farm runoff and restore plant and wildlife habitat.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy released the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's action plan at a meeting of Great Lakes mayors in Chicago, saying it is a roadmap for federal agencies to target the "biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem." Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since 2009 for the restoration effort.

The updated plan continues work in core areas while addressing concerns about how well the program is meeting its objectives. The EPA coordinates the program with support from 10 other federal departments.

Efforts across the eight-state region have included removal of toxic sediments, rebuilding wetlands and uprooting invasive plants. The program also has supported the fight to prevent aggressive Asian carp from reaching the lakes.

The updated plan also says that new projects should consider climate change. For example, wetland plants and trees would be selected for suitability to warmer temperatures. Watershed restorations would be designed to handle more frequent and intense storms, which could cause heavier erosion and runoff.

Bloomfield Hills
Nuns reconsider school policies

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Catholic nuns who operate a Michigan school where a gay teacher was fired after becoming pregnant says they will re-examine their policies.

The Detroit Free Press reports the president of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary said in a letter to Marian High School alumnae Monday that Pope Francis has encouraged the congregation to look at the church "with new eyes." It was shared Tuesday on a Facebook page created to support science teacher Barbara Webb.

The 33-year-old teacher says she was fired in August from the all-girls high school in suburban Detroit after working there for nine years. She notified her employers of her pregnancy in July.

The letter doesn't mention Webb by name. It says the congregation will work with school officials to "re-examine policies and procedures."

Published: Thu, Sep 25, 2014