A small group of protesters stayed put Thursday after being ordered to leave the entrance of a planned nickel mine in the Upper Peninsula, near what an American Indian tribe considers sacred ground. Two people were arrested.
Police said one person was sitting on top of Eagle Rock, a 60-foot-high outcrop where members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community conduct religious pilgrimages. She remained there past the 9:30 a.m. deadline and was arrested, State Police Sgt. J.M. Bruno said. One other person also was arrested, said Sgt. David DeRocher of the Marquette County sheriff's office.
As many as 20 people have camped at the site during the last month, included members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. officials warned them to leave by Thursday.
When officials got to the site, there were five protesters there, according to Kennecott Eagle spokesman Matt Johnson. He handed them a letter asking them to leave, saying it wasn't safe for them to be there because it's a construction site.
By noon, the site was empty but for company officials and a few police officers. There were a number of tents still up and the protesters' camp fire, which they consider sacred, was smoldering near the base of the rock.
The entrance is state land that Kennecott is leasing. Kennecott believes the mine could produce as much as 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper. Kennecott is owned by London-based Rio Tinto PLC.
While the Upper Peninsula has a long and colorful history of copper and iron mining dating from the mid-1800s, its copper mines have closed and only two iron operations remain, both in Marquette County. The new mine would bring badly needed jobs to the area.
The site is within an undeveloped area of Marquette County known as the Yellow Dog Plains, prized by environmentalists and sports enthusiasts for its quiet woods and rivers near Lake Superior.