Michigan regulators reach deal with Upper Peninsula mines over leaks from waste rock pipelines

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mines, Michigan regulators reach deal on cleanup

Michigan environmental regulators said Thursday they had reached a settlement with two Upper Peninsula iron mines over unauthorized discharges of ground-up waste rock from a disposal pipeline.

The Tilden and Empire mines agreed to finish cleaning up material that leaked from the pipe in 2008 and 2009, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment said. They promised to track down any leaks that may have happened earlier and pay more than $55,000 in fines and costs, the agency said.

The Marquette County mines, both owned by Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., produce iron ore for steel manufacturing.

Mined rock is ground up finely to release the ore. A slurry containing leftover material, known as “tailings,” is piped to holding ponds several miles away.

The company reported eight leaks of tailings from the pipeline over a year-and-a-half period, the DNRE said. It said the leaks violated the mines’ pollutant discharge permits and state law.

Failed seals may have caused some of the releases, Cliffs spokesman Dale Hemmila said.

The company has replaced the pipeline, which is several miles long, at a cost of $7.9 million and spent about $500,000 on the cleanup, he said.

Cliffs shortly will report to the DNRE on the search for additional leaks, Hemmila said.


—Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment: www.michigan.gov/dnre

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