Coalition of Environmental Groups Urge Legislators to Reject Iron Strip Mine Bill and Protect Wisconsin Water
Madison–The Sierra Club, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and over 75 other organizations, including Trout Unlimited, the Wisconsin Association of Lakes, the Izaak Walton League of Wisconsin, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Penokee Hills Education Project, the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Clean Wisconsin, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and many more statewide, regional and national groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council released an open letter urging Wisconsin legislators to reject changes to Wisconsin’s mining safeguards.
Along with the letter, briefing papers on the Iron Strip Mine Bill, Wisconsin’s Mining Moratorium Law and the Environmental Track Record of Taconite Mining in Minnesota and Michigan were released. The letter and briefing papers can be found at: http://wisconsin.sierraclub.org/MiningSafeguardsSignOnLetter.asp
“This is the beginning of a new network of organizations both in Wisconsin and around the region concerned that Gogebic Taconite has worked to change mining laws based on false claims about the safety of taconite mining compared to metallic sulfide mining,” said Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. “This network is also deeply concerned that mining proponents are targeting the Mining Moratorium law for repeal despite the fact that there is still no example of a mine ever successfully operating in metallic sulfide minerals.”
Governor Walker’s address to the state last night reaffirms his intent to support legislation so extreme that is unlikely to ever create jobs. “Wisconsin has thousands of job opportunities through investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, transportation options, and tourism that create sustainable jobs without damaging our air and water. This administration would rather grovel at the feet of a missing-in-action mining company dangling the prospect of hugely destructive mining jobs instead of pursuing clean and sustainable 21st Century jobs” said Elizabeth Ward, Conservation Programs Director.
“The open-pit strip mine proposed for the Bad River Watershed is the most destructive industrial project the state has ever faced and would be the largest taconite mine in the world. The briefing distributed to legislators today proves taconite mining in Minnesota and Michigan has caused widespread pollution and we expect nothing different from this proposal. We call on legislators to do their homework, reject the false and misleading claims from mining proponents and diligently study the impacts from this proposal before voting on legislation that will dramatically reduce environmental protections. We remind legislators that they represent all of Wisconsin’s citizens and the clean air and water we rely on, not one mining company with a hugely destructive proposal.” said Dave Blouin, Mining Committee Chair for the Sierra Club John Muir Chapter (WI).
From 1994-97, a large network of state and regional organizations including environmental and conservation groups, Wisconsin tribes, unions, churches and other citizen groups joined together to oppose the Crandon proposal and pass the Mining Moratorium law with overwhelming support and signed by Governor Thompson in 1998. The network’s efforts successfully educated the public on the dangers of mining in metallic sulfide minerals. This new network will continue to grow and educate Wisconsin citizens about the permanent destruction represented by iron mining in Ashland and Iron Counties and the need to require the mining industry to demonstrate proof of safe mining via examples for the Moratorium (“Prove It First”) law.
The Sierra Club and Wisconsin Resources Protection Council have prepared briefings for legislators on three topics: the history and issues behind the Iron Mining bill, the Environmental Track Record of Taconite Mining in Minnesota and Michigan and the history and importance of Wisconsin’s Mining Moratorium Law including a list of current legislators and officials who voted in favor of it in 1997. The documents can be found at: http://wisconsin.sierraclub.org/MiningSafeguardsSignOnLetter.asp
The Iron Strip Mining Bill briefing includes this background information:
- Gogebic Taconite wrote the original bill.
- The geological premise of the bill is false.
- Current mining law already regulates iron mining and the Flambeau mine was successfully permitted under the same laws.
- Public polling and overwhelming majorities demonstrated strong opposition to the bill in the last session.
- The bill includes broad and sweeping reductions in environmental protections for iron mining by exemptions from or limits on the application of current environmental laws.
- The proposal would become the largest open pit taconite mine on the planet and threatens the Bad River Watershed and Lake Superior with permanent damage and huge quantities of wastes requiring safe management forever.
The Environmental Track Record of Taconite Mining briefing includes this background information:
- All ten current taconite mines and producers in MN and MI are recent polluters. Together they represent nearly all taconite production in the US.
- The ten mines and production facilities have amassed $2.1 million in fines for pollution in the last 10 years alone.
- A wide variety of pollution from taconite mining spreads far beyond the boundaries of each project including mercury deposition across the region including Wisconsin and water pollution causing fish consumption advisories for many miles of rivers and streams.
- Historic iron mining in sulfide bearing minerals – just as in the Penokee Range iron ore that is the subject of this bill – has caused chronic pollution of ground and surface waters.
The Mining Moratorium (“Prove It First”) briefing includes this background information:
- Possible metallic mines in Wisconsin are in sulfide minerals that can cause extensive damage from Acid Mine Drainage.
- The history including the votes of current legislators and elected officials who voted for the Moratorium in 1997. The list includes Governor Walker.
- The Flambeau mine violated the Clean Water Act and cannot be an example for the Moratorium.
- To this day, the mining industry has yet to offer a single example of a successfully operated and closed mine in metallic sulfide minerals.
The Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) is a statewide, nonprofit membership organization founded in 1982 to help counter the lack of information about the effects of large-scale metallic sulfide mining on our state’s precious water supplies, on the tourism and dairy industries, and upon the many Native American communities that are located near potential mine sites.
Founded in 1892 by John Muir, the Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. The Sierra Club’s mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out those objectives. The Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter is made up of 15,000 members and supporters working to promote clean energy and protect water resources in Wisconsin.
Dave Blouin, JMC Mining Committee Chair: (608) 233-8455
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary, WRPC: (608) 784-4399