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Orvana resubmits final permit for U.P. mine

Agency: Environmental Quality

 

Dec. 3, 2012                                                                                                               12-1203

 

For More Information                                                  Steve Casey, 906-235-5771, Caseys@michigan.gov 

            Brad Wurfel, 517-241-7395, wurfelb@michigan.gov 

                                                                         

Move consolidates multiple changes to original permit request

The DEQ today announced Orvana Corporation has withdrawn and resubmitted its application for the wetlands, inland lakes and streams permit needed to construct the Copperwood Mine north of Wakefield in Gogebic County.

In response to comments from the public, Native American tribes, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DEQ, the applicant made numerous improvements to its original submittal. The withdrawal and resubmittal of this application allows regulators to consider a single permit application instead of the original application with multiple corrected documents, and was necessary because of a pending deadline for resolving EPA concerns with the original application.

Major improvements to the original submission include:

  • An improved analysis of alternatives for reducing environmental impact, including a detailed review of the feasibility of placing tailings back in the mine.
  • Utilizing natural channel design (versus ditches) for channels diverting existing streams around the proposed tailings basin.  The new design incorporates wetland creation in the floodplain of the new stream channels.
  • Raising the height of the tailings basin to reduce its footprint.
  • Modifications of facilities to slightly reduce wetland impacts.
  • Adding two preservation tracts totaling 820 acres to the wetland mitigation plan.
  • Improving the stream mitigation plan by the creation of 10,500 feet of natural stream channel and replacement of a culvert on Two Mile Creek that is blocking brook trout passage on a tributary to the Wild and Scenic Cisco Branch of the Ontonagon River.
  • More accurately characterizing the length of streams impacted by the tailings basin.

The new application has been publicly noticed, with a Dec. 18 deadline for comment. The application can be reviewed at www.deq.state.mi.us/ciwpis and enter file number 12-27-0050-P. Comments can be submitted electronically from this site.

In addition to improving its application for the wetlands, inland lakes and streams permit, Orvana has agreed to accept modifications to its mining permit to address concerns expressed during the public notice of this application, including:

  • Restrictions on the final mine plan to require elimination of planned subsidence.
  • Conditions that require Orvana to monitor for and correct problems in the unlikely event of significant unplanned subsidence, leakage of contaminated water from the mine after closure or erosion downstream of the stream diversion to Lehigh Creek.
  • Provision to ensure that the final grade on the tailings basin cap appropriately distributes water to receiving streams. 

This is the last major environmental permit needed before this project can move forward. Orvana already has obtained mining, wastewater and air permits from the DEQ. 

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