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Opponents Appeal Judge's Approval Of Michigan Mine

JOHN FLESHER

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) â¿¿ A coalition of environmental and community groups opposed to a nickel and copper mine under construction in Michigan's Upper Peninsula asked the state Court of Appeals on Monday to overturn a judge's approval of the project.

Four groups contend the Department of Environmental Quality should not have granted Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. a permit to build and operate the mine because it poses a high risk of water and air pollution.

They say the mine's rock ceiling would be unstable and could cave in, endangering workers and the Salmon Trout River under which the tunnel would be drilled. Opponents also say metallic dust, vehicle exhaust and other contaminants would foul the air, although the DEQ has approved an air emissions permit for the mine.

Kennecott has insisted repeatedly the project is well-designed and would protect workers and the environment. The DEQ approved the permit in 2007, a decision upheld by an administrative law judge. Opponents appealed to Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield, who sided with the DEQ last month.

"The evidence related to the likely collapse of the roof is overwhelming and that really needs to be addressed," in addition to other legal issues, said Michelle Halley, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. Other groups fighting the mine include the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Huron Mountain Club and the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

Kennecott has cleared land, constructed surface buildings and begun drilling the mine entrance through bedrock in the remote Yellow Dog Plains area near Lake Superior in northwestern Marquette County. The company says production of nickel and copper is scheduled to begin in 2013.

Adam Burley, president of Kennecott Eagle, said he was disappointed the legal fight would continue.

"However, our focus remains on safety and responsibly building Eagle mine in compliance with all of the conditions of our permits," Burley said.

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