Michigan saw the light.
Prepared by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Department of Public Health
March 31, 1982
This report has been prepared at the request of the Governor. It’s preparation was stimulated by mining industry interest in leasing approximately 400,000 acres of state-owned lands in the Upper Peninsula for base metal exploration and potential mining development. Uranium was one of the metals of interest. Uranium, with its property of radioactivity, has been a socially controversial element or, more accurately, the use of uranium in the nuclear power industry and in the military have controversial. Thus, when the DNR held public hearings in July of 1980 to receive comments on a proposed metallic lease, two issues were identified. One dealt with the adequacy of the proposed lease and the second with the propriety of leasing state land for uranium exploration and development.
Citizens were concerned with the environmental and health hazards associated with uranium exploration, mining and milling. Uranium mining had never occurred in Michigan, but they had read or of the environmental and public health problems with existing uranium projects in Canada and the western United States. They were worried about the potential development of uranium mining in the Upper Peninsula. Specifically, they questioned the adequacy of existing public health and environmental statutes with respect to uranium exploration and mining and the ability of federal and state agencies to adequately monitor specific mining activities, obtain compliance with permit conditions and pursue enforcement and corrective action, when necessary, in a timely manner.
These concerns expressed to the Governor and in August of 1980 the Governor directed the departments of Natural Resources and Public Health to study the potential environmental and human health risks associated with uranium exploration and mining as well as review the existing regulatory framework under which uranium mining would be out carried out in Michigan. A hold was also placed on the leasing of any state land for uranium exploration and development pending the completion of the report.
In addition to public health and environment associated with uranium exploration and development, there were positions of complete opposition to uranium exploration, mining and milling un the Upper Peninsula on moral, philosophical and religious grounds. It was submitted that the development of uranium mining would aid in the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in the development of nuclear power. These were opined as immoral activities and the state, by entering into leases for uranium, would be acting immorally. This report does not address the social and ethical question to the uranium controversy.
This report does address two issues. 1) A review of the potential environmental and human health impacts relating to uranium exploration, mining and milling. 2) A review of the existing federal and state law in place to regulate uranium exploration, mining and milling.
It is necessary to point out that this report is prospective in nature. Uranium exploration activities currently underway in Michigan are at an early stage of mineral exploration. There are no uranium mines in the state. No state-owned lands are under lease. We view this report as a guide to aid in framing the issues and identifying the existing regulatory controls on uranium mining.