A tribe in the Upper Peninsula is appealing to the United Nations in an effort to restrain sulfide mining. The tribe hopes to strengthen its position through an international agreement signed by the Obama Administration.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community says mines that produce sulfuric acid can pollute the water and threaten places sacred to tribes in the Great Lakes. The Keweenaw tribe fought the Eagle Mine, a new copper and nickel mine under construction in Marquette County. (The owner, Kennecott Eagle Minerals says it is leading a resurgence of mining in the Upper Peninsula.)
One of the issues raised was the mine’s proximity to Eagle Rock, a rock outcropping that has been used for sacred ceremonies. Eagle Rock is prominently cited in a document sent to the United Nations. It says tribes are overwhelmed by the development of new mines and the State of Michigan does not consider their cultures when issuing permits.
Many American Indian tribes are raising issues like these with the U.N. now because he the U.S. signed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2010. A U.N. official is visiting this week to gather information about implementing the declaration.
An attorney for the Keweenaw tribe says the declaration is not law, it’s a political document that sets out principles. But she says it could lead to new laws that would help tribes in the Great Lakes region oppose sulfide mining.