Casperson: promote economic opportunity while retaining stringent mining standards



LANSING, Mich. — To further the state’s reputation as a national leader in mining law reform, the Senate Natural Resources Committee recently approved Sen. Tom Casperson’s legislation to stimulate economic development in the Upper Peninsula, provide regulatory and operational flexibility, clarify existing environmental laws and continue to protect Michigan’s natural resources through the rigors of mining laws that are widely regarded as among the most stringent in the world. 

“The native copper found in the Upper Peninsula is the largest deposit in the world, and mining it has been a critical part of our economy for generations,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “New techniques and technologies offer a chance for mining to create hundreds of high-wage jobs and support our communities for years to come.

“Minor changes to existing mining permits should not automatically restart the entire permitting process, resulting in costly and unnecessary delays. This reform is a commonsense balance between supporting our economy and the incredible natural resources that we are blessed with in the U.P.”

Senate Bill 839 would require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to consider if the environmental impact of a proposed mining permit amendment is materially increased or substantially different from the previously approved permit and therefore needs a full review. If the DEQ determines that the amendment is not a substantive change, they could approve the change without undergoing the full permit process.

Copperwood Resources, a subsidiary of Highland Copper, is considering an investment to create about 350 jobs during construction and another 350 full-time jobs during the mine operation.

“These additional bills will provide further clarity and bring additional investment into Michigan and its natural resource development,” said Highland Copper CEO Denis Miville-Deschênes. “As a result, by utilizing modern techniques, technology and environmental best-practices, copper and other mineral mining in Michigan can be revitalized.”

Matt Johnson, external affairs manager at Eagle Mine said, “At Eagle Mine, we continually look for opportunities to improve our operations when it comes to safety, water protection and efficiency. The mining bills introduced by Senator Casperson will clarify existing regulations and offer flexibility for mining regulators that will support continued investment and local jobs in Michigan.”

Since Eagle Mine started operations, the company has spent $161 million in purchasing goods and supplies in Michigan, paid $20 million in state royalty payments to fund state parks and conservation program grants and paid $27 million in taxes — including being responsible for 25 percent of the local school district’s annual budget.

“Michigan continues to be a national leader supporting mining development and protecting our natural resources,” Casperson said. “This is about providing the state with reasonable latitude for allowing an operator to amend a permit without having to redo the long permit process. This reform does that without adversely limiting the DEQ’s permitting power under Part 632 as the department will retain the ability to require the full process if it determines the change warrants it.”

SBs 839, 840, 881 and 891 would make further clarifications regarding permit requirements. All four bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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