Land swap in Michigan clears way for Gaymont's limestone mine

March 20, 2015

A 10,000 acre land swamp between the state of Michigan and Canadian mining company, Graymont, was approved by the state, clearing the way for the development of a limestone mine in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

The Wall Street Journal reported that State Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh approved the land transfer after a seven-hour public meeting.

“It’s a very difficult balance” but “we have an improved application,” Creagh said of Canadian mining company Graymont’s latest plan that sought to address concerns by state environmental officials about royalty payments and future public access to the land.

An earlier version of the plan had been opposed by Creagh’s senior staff. The staff endorsed an amended plan earlier this month after royalty rates to the state nearly doubled. In Michigan, Creagh said he has the power to sell public land as part of his mission to safeguard the environment and promote responsible economic development.

Graymont’s proposed mine divided local residents on a largely rural crescent of land in the state that sits above Lake Michigan and along the Canadian border. The state’s department of natural resources received more than 2,600 comments since the mine was proposed more than two years ago. It is believed to be one of the largest transfers of public land for mining in the state’s history.

Kim Walsh, director of business development at Graymont, said earlier this week that if the project received state approval, the drilling rigs at the site could be set up later this year. The company plans to surface mine between 10 and 20 acres of land a year for limestone, in addition to underground mining at a later date, Walsh said.

The approved deal Thursday calls for about 2,600 acres to be transferred immediately through sale or swap for other land held by the company. Another 7,000 acres will be leased to the company for mineral-extraction use, according to state officials. The value of the deal is about $4.5 million, plus future mineral royalties.

Over the next 20 years, Graymont says it expects the limestone-mining project to generate at least $125 million in economic impact for the area, including tens of millions of dollars in capital spending. Company officials forecast the mine will directly generate 45 jobs and another 40 indirectly related to the operation.

As part of the land transfer, Graymont also agreed to limit the mine’s impact on wetlands and recreation trails and create a regional economic-development fund with an annual donation of $100,000 for five years.
 

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