LANSING Mich. (WJMN) – State Representative Sara Cambensy introduces a Mining Bill package and worked with Senator Ed McBroom and U.P. Legislators on Michigan’s Mining Future recommendations to develop safe, sustainable mining strategies. Cambensy introduced House Bill 4227 in 2018 to create the Committee on Michigan’s Mining Future. This bill is responsible for recommendations to strengthen and develop sustainable mining practices in the state. Today, there has been an increase in need for minerals needed to make electric vehicles.

“When the idea of forming a committee on mining was enacted, my communities
had just lost nearly 400 high-paying jobs with the idling of the Empire mine in 2016,” said Cambensy. “My
focus was more about making sure the research and development of our iron mining
was sufficient to survive the steelmaking change from traditional blast furnaces to
electric arc furnaces, and less on metallic minerals and where we stood as a state and
nation in mining those minerals.”

This change to electrification helped change the bills to focus on metallic minerals and extending the lifespan of the iron range. Included in the proposed legislation is incentivizing mining companies to do more on ore bodies, creating partnerships with research universities exploring ways to process ore thats more efficient and sustainable, and protecting the natural resources and water. There was approval of a $10 million appropriation to design a coal dock jetty to eventually dredge and remove the stamp sands in the Keweenaw.

Cambensy admits the legislation addresses a lot of the committee’s recommendations, but it doesn’t address the growing anti-mining sentiment among some environmentalists, which she sees as a big hurdle going forward. This is why the bill creates a permanent mining committee to help advise during this period of growth and change.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for mining, especially in the UP, in the current climate, given the increasing need for materials and the push for new technologies,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “I’m looking
forward to having the discussion before the Legislature and focusing on ways that our traditional land-based industries, like U.P. mining, can partner with the technology industry. If Michigan can be a part of new technologies from the raw materials to finished products and we ignore the opportunity, we are failing our citizens and communities for a bright future of economic prosperity.”

Cambensy says there are two important bills addressing mine closure and battery recycling in the works. All of these bills head for a committee hearing in September when the legislature returns to session.

Here is a list of current bills introduced:

  1. House Bill 6254: Ferrous Mining Research and Development Grants- Allows
    iron ore companies paying the Specific Ore Tax to receive a 1:1 state match, up
    to $100,000 per year, to be used for research and design on existing or future
    ore bodies, pellet design, tailings and reclamation ponds/pits, environmental
    solutions to current or existing mining sites, or any other mining issue related to
    Michigan iron ore bodies. The research dollars can be matched back to any
    university in Michigan that has a focus in mining, geology or field of study directly
    related to mining research. Projects will be selected by the mining company and
    approved by the Director of Oil, Gas and Minerals in EGLE.
  2. House Bill 6218: Non-Ferrous Research and Development Grants- Allows a
    non-ferrous mining company that pays into the Rural Development Fund to
    receive a 1:1 state match, up to $100,000 per year, to be used for research and
    design on existing or future ore bodies, tailings and reclamation ponds/pits,
    environmental solutions to current or existing mining sites, or any other mining
    issue related to Michigan non-ferrous ore bodies. Projects will be selected by the
    mining company/mining companies paying into the Rural Development Fund and
    approved by the Director of Oil, Gas, and Minerals. The $100,000 match for
    research will come after the $250,000 appropriation for EGLE to monitor nonferrous mining sites.
  3. House Bill 6219: Unemployment Extension for Ferrous Mine Idle or
    Closure- Extends the number of weeks for unemployment to be collected to no
    more than 104 weeks. Ferrous mining companies often idle to wait out economic
    downturns that can last up to 2 years, and the replacement of workers is
    incredibly difficult to accomplish. Tilden Mine, for example, currently has between
    900 and 1,000 full-time steelworkers.
  4. House Bill 6220: Advisory Committee on Michigan Hard-Rock
    Mining- Creates an advisory committee on hard-rock mining to advise the
    Director of Oil, Gas and Minerals and other EGLE and DNR state employees
    who work with mining regulations, permitting, and land/mineral leasing. The
    committee will be made up of 8 members, with 6 members having knowledge in
    the mining industry, and 2 members at-large. Modeled after the Oil and Gas
    Advisory Committee.
  5. House Bill 6255: Mining Reclamation Fund- This is a multi-bill package that
    creates a state hard-rock mining reclamation fund from both ferrous mining
    ($250,000 specific ore tax) and non-ferrous mining ($250,000 severance tax) to
    house the mining inspector and dedicate money to go towards mining specialists.
    A U.P. mining inspector will be responsible for assessing and documenting
    abandoned mines, environmental concerns from abandoned mine sites, and any
    other work deemed necessary by the Director of Oil, Gas and Minerals at EGLE.
    This fund will also allow the state to apply for federal abandoned mining dollars
    that are traditionally reserved for coal and gold mines in the Western United
    States. Additional professional staff for the permitting of mines, educational
    programs and materials on mining may also be created from this fund. The fund
    may not be used for state litigation or legal fees.