Rio Tinto officials say an independent air and water monitoring program in mining is rare, but necessary.
"There are quite a few components of this that are unprecedented," said Simon Nish, Director of Communications and External Relations at Rio Tinto. "Through this, the Upper Peninsula is setting a new standard in community oversight of modern mining."
The Marquette County Community Foundation and the Superior Watershed Partnership have agreed to provide oversight and problem solving for the program that will monitor air and water quality at the nickel and copper operations.
"Superior Watershed Partnership wants to see this happen because we all live here in the Upper Peninsula, and we want clean water, we want clean air," said Bob Cowell, a member of the MCCF Board of Trustees.
The foundation is now seeking community members to serve on its five-person board.
"Once they're appointed, they'll be volunteers, and they'll oversee how the program is run, how the payments are made. They'll invoice the mine twice a year for the mine's contribution to the fund," said MCCF Board of Trustees member, Jerry Maynard.
The ideal candidates will be community members, have mining expertise, and knowledge of environmental science. You don't have to possess all three to qualify. The foundation will appoint the chair, and they've also asked the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to appoint the fifth board member.
Rio Tinto isn't only open to the idea, they're funding it. The company has agreed to invest $1.2 million over the course of three years, starting this January. Officials from the Marquette County Community Foundation say Rio Tinto will not have authority over the program, but it will supply their own data to the watershed.
If you're interested in serving on the Community Environmental Monitoring Program board, visit the Marquette County Community Foundation's website.