Hundreds of people came out Thursday for a public hearing held by the Department of Environmental Quality. A panel of DEQ officials heard dozens of testimonials at Gogebic Community College for the Copperwood mining project.
While most residents voiced support of the proposed copper mine, the DEQ says it only considers testimony as it relates to the air and in-land water quality permits.
"We look for comments on the application, and we look for comments that are pertinent to what we can regulate under the statue of regulations," explained Vince Hellwig, Chief of the DEQ's Air Quality Division.
Orvana Resources has been courting public opinion, promising the $2.5 billion project will bring hundreds of jobs and jumpstart a struggling economy.
"We expect 400 to 600 [jobs] upon construction for two years," said Dave Anderson, of Orvana Resources. "Full-time employment will be just under 300 permanently for the life of the mine, which is about 13 years, with an estimated 5 years of closure for reclamation."
Talk of the mine has had a big impact in a relatively small area. It has even motivated 16-year-old Michael Besonen, who has video-taped the proceedings to preserve what he thinks will be a major milestone in his community.
"I love this country and I love this area," remarked Besonen. "I don't want to see it damaged and I do not want to see it just turn into a ghost town, and that's what is going to happen here if we don't do something as a country."
The mine does have opponents, including the Keweenaw Bay and Lac Vieux Desert tribes, who have submitted their complaints to the state. Both tribes were unavailable for comment.
"We've offered, for the tribes, to come out to the site with us to address their concerns," Anderson said. "They refuse to discuss anything with us. We do examine the comments that they submit to the state and respond to the state and make sure those concerns are addressed."
Orvana says it expects to receive the three final permits by the end of this year; then the company says construction could begin as early as Fall of 2013.