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Mining company revises plan to acquire nearly 10,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula

A Canadian mining company has revised its proposal to acquire nearly 10,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula. 

Graymont wants to acquire land and mineral rights in three different U.P. counties to mine for limestone.  The mining operation would include surface and underground mining.  The company says it is acquiring so much property because it plans to set up a “generational” operation that would mine the land for 100 years. 

It would be the largest sale of public land in Michigan history. 

The original proposal faced opposition from within the Department of Natural Resources. DNR division heads cited more than a half-dozen reasons why the application should be rejected.

“The changes that have been made to the land transaction application were made to address those seven specific concerns,” says Graymont's Paul Stoll.

Graymont is now offering to pay the state 30 cents for each ton of extracted limestone. That’s up from 18.75 cents. The revised proposal also promises to limit the impact on wetlands, and reroute trails.  

The company is also offering to develop a regional economic development fund. The fund would provide grant money to local governments, schools and small businesses. 

The number of jobs the mining operation would create remains a question. 

Bill O’Neill is the chief of the DNR’s forest resources division. He says it will take DNR officials and the public some time to go through the changes.

For example, O’Neill says they have to evaluate Graymont’s new proposed royalty payment to the state for the mineral rights to the property.

“Is that adequate? We really haven’t had that conversation,” says O’Neill.   

Because of the revised application, DNR director Keith Creagh has put off a decision on the issue until March. He may still decide on a related application at the Natural Resources Commission meeting next week. 

Environmentalists remain concerned, not only about the proposal, but how the DNR has handled the entire process.

“There seems to be a real push on to revise applications on a weekly basis and make decisions very quickly," says Marvin Roberson, a Sierra Club Forest Ecologist. “We think that’s very inappropriate.”

In the end, Roberson thinks the idea of selling vast stretches of public land is a bad idea.

“We think public land is a treasure -- a natural resource that the people of Michigan hold together,” says Roberson. “One of the reasons Michigan is so wonderful is that we do have so much public land.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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