By Bob Allen
Kennecott Minerals says it's ready to begin building a nickel mine near Marquette. The company told state regulators it has all the necessary permits, and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment says they can go ahead and construct the mine.
But the move caught federal officials at the Environmental Protection Agency by surprise.
Geologist Steve Roy says the EPA has not decided yet whether Kennecott needs a permit to release treated wastewater into the ground. But he says that wouldn't necessarily keep the company from getting started.
"For example, there are many parts of the mine that have nothing to do with the treated water infiltration system. And they might be able to begin construction of that without running into problems with us," he says.
Earlier this month, Kennecott changed the design of its infiltration system so the pipes are above ground instead of buried. That's why the company figures it doesn't need an underground injection permit.