EVART — The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved the construction of 11 wells for a potash mining operation in Evart Township.
The DEQ found Michigan Potash Company’s application to meet regulatory requirements. The approval comes after months of reviewing public comments.
The permits, granted by the DEQ’s Oil, Gas and Minerals Division, are for eight solution mining wells and three disposal wells.
“OGMD staff has conducted a thorough and intensive review of the proposed Michigan Potash Part 625 permit applications and has determined that the applications meet the applicable regulatory requirements,” the DEQ said in a statement. “For that reason, we have made the decision to proceed with issuing permits to Michigan Potash.
“Of all the comments we received in opposition to the issuance of these permits, we did not receive any matters of fact that would require denial of these applications under Michigan statue or rules.”
The DEQ expected to make a decision around mid-April, but the public comment review process took longer than expected.
Michigan Potash intends to construct a facility in Evart Township that could cost $700 million, which would use about 2 million gallons of water per day.
Environmental groups including Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation have voiced opposition to the mining operation, citing a risk of environmental damage to wetlands and concerns over water usage.
Local farmers, the Osceola County Farm Bureau and Evart’s Local Development Finance Authority support the operation, which the company says will bring jobs to the area.
The Evart Township board voted in February to create a zoning district to allow for the construction of the proposed facility.
Michigan Potash CEO Theodore Pagano said he was pleased with the agency’s decision.
“This puts us one step closer to delivering and utilizing what Osceola County has uniquely for the state of Michigan and the country as a whole,” Pagano said.
Pagano said he wanted to emphasize the rigorousness with which the DEQ and EPA conducted the review process, which began almost three years ago.
“Folks (should assume) things are done appropriately and that we can steward the resources Michigan has,” he said.”(That includes) its surface wetlands, natural resources and subsurface resources (in order to) maintain the integrity of the land we own and strengthen communities.”