DEQ OKs Eagle Mine air permit

MARQUETTE – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved an air quality permit for modifications to the Eagle Mine.

The decision was announced Friday.

Current mine owner Rio Tinto has made several changes at the mine since its original air use permit application was approved in 2007. Some of the modifications included eliminating on-site ore crushing, adding an enclosed aggregate storage building and eliminating a fabric filter dust collector.

In making the announcement, Vince Hellwig, chief of the DEQ’s Air Quality Division in Lansing, said he’d approved the permit “after careful consideration of the issues.”

A 30-day public comment period on the proposal ended March 18.

In Marquette on March 12, officials took testimony – almost exclusively from critics – on the Rio Tinto proposal to modify the permit.

Emily Whittaker of Marquette was among several speakers who did not want Rio Tinto to remove the dust collector. The mining company claimed the air pollution control filter on the mine ventilation stack is no longer necessary.

“There is no real need to remove the bag house other than to save money and they have the money to do it,” Whittaker said at the meeting. “The bag house was a stipulation of receiving the air permit in the first place so we again urge you to keep them on their word.”

Other speakers wanted air quality baseline data collected before mining operations begin, stricter pollution controls required or had concerns about pollution at the mine site.

Along with its decision, the DEQ issued an 89-page document, which provided responses to these and other comments collected during the public hearing and comment period.

As part of the approval process, DEQ staff revised and added conditions to the permit to address information received during public participation and subsequent analysis.

Among other revisions, changes were made to the permit to limit the number of ore trucks leaving the facility, clarify which mine site roadways need to be paved and require trucks to have their loads covered or a dust suppressant applied in order to reduce dust emissions.

Full operations at the Eagle Mine are currently set to begin in late 2014.