DNR hosts public meeting on UPX minerals lease request

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Property owners and environmental groups got a chance to weigh in on the proposed leasing of mineral rights for roughly 2,500 acres in Marquette County Tuesday night.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Office of Minerals Management hoped to better inform the public of just what UPX Minerals can and can't do if they were to lease the mineral rights for roughly 2,500 acres in Marquette County. This included procedures if UPX were to find harvest-able minerals.

"So if something were to be leased on a piece of property where the state doesn't own the surface, then that lessee, in this case UPX, would have to get with that surface owner to get reasonable access to those minerals," said Mark Sweatman, director of the Office of Minerals Management.

The DNR says that the potential leasing of mineral rights could be beneficial for the state and its citizens.

“If they actually go to production, then there's a royalty that gets paid to the state of Michigan, all that money goes into the state park endowment fund," said Sweatman.

That money would pay for state parks and recreations. Last year alone, the state received $35 million in mineral revenue royalties. Potential jobs that another mine could bring to the area is also a plus.

"Any time you have good jobs come into any county, its good news, so you're always open minded about anybody that's talking about spending money to create good jobs," said Marquette County Board Chair Gerry Corkin.

Not everyone is on board with the idea though.

"These mineral leases would impact homeowners, camp owners, conservation lands that are set aside for everyone's enjoyment," said Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition board member Kathleen Heideman.

Environmentalists believe that more mining, especially closer to the city of Marquette could have a negative impact on the local economy as well. The DNR pointed out that often times, either nothing is found, or the mineral company decides not to pursue their options.

"At this point, we've got to hear what the public has to say, feed that in with our resource experts, and make kind of a final decision on how the properties could be classified," said Sweatman.

There is no timetable on when a decision to lease or not will be made. If passed though, UPX can begin their work in early February. For more information on Michigan's mineral rights, you can visit their website.

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