Prove it schmrove it
An unlikely coalition has lined up against mining companies and the Republicans who love them.
by David Giffey
Mark your calendar for noon Saturday, January 26. That’s the scheduled birth of a “new coalition” of Native American tribes, environmental and sport fishing groups, and friends, who will gather at the capitol in Madison in a statewide demonstration opposing another attempt to destroy Wisconsin’s prized moratorium on metallic sulfide mining. Your presence is welcome. No RSVP required.
The January 26 demonstration will be “a very powerful counterweight” to new legislation seen as paving a way to eventually destroy Wisconsin’s 1998 “prove it first” law, says Al Gedicks, of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council . Republican leaders including Governor Walker have said they’ll introduce The Bad River Watershed Destruction Act (that’s its popular title) this month. The bill is also called Gogebic Taconite’s (GTac) Strip Mine legislation.
“There has never been an example of a metallic sulfide mine that has safely operated and closed without polluting the environment,” says a briefing paper by the Sierra Club and the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. State legislators will receive copies of that paper and other clear scientific information supporting rejection of the next version of pro-strip mining legislation. Will they pay attention?
Two important factors might help lawmakers stay focused on their obligation to serve the people of Wisconsin, rather than the corporate mining interests.
First, said Gedicks when he spoke with Fighting Bob Radio hosts Ed Garvey and Eric Schubring January 10, is the reality that GTac’s strip mine proposal fundamentally threatens Bad River Ojibwe Tribe natural resources, which are protected by treaty rights. The tribe can set water standards and challenge the permitting process in federal court, “which would delay any kind of decision on the mine for years.”
Secondly, the new coalition being organized is likely to be mighty powerful. It’s reminiscent of the coming together of tribes and many groups and individuals in opposition to the Crandon Mine in Forest County in the 1990s. That Exxon mine operated with Tommy Thompson’s blessing from 1993 to 1997. Opposition from tribes and environmentalists coalesced into eventual tribal ownership of the former Crandon mine site and bi-partisan passage of the state mining moratorium law in 1998.
Scott Walker was in the State Assembly and voted in favor of the mining moratorium bill. So did state Senator Alberta Darling in 1998.
It should be noted that Republican state Senator Dale Schultz distinguished himself by breaking ranks last year with the GOP and voting against AB 426, the bill favoring Gogebic Taconite’s mine proposed for the Penokee Hills. The bill failed in 2012 by one vote.
Despite Walker’s vote for the moratorium law in 1998, today the governor contradicts himself by claiming he won’t sign a bill that harms the environment while advocating for the Gogebic Taconite bill pushed by Wisconsin Manufacturers (WMC) and Commerce, GTac, and the Wisconsin Mining Association.
As the latest reports prepared by WRPC and the Sierra Club describe, the 1998 law “is a moratorium in name only…it is simply a permit condition that must be met before final permits are granted.” And metallic sulfide mining has never – anywhere – been proven safe nor has it ended without polluting the environment. Gedicks explained that the ore overburden and the ore deposits themselves contain sulfide minerals including pyrite which, when exposed to air, release toxic metals into the environment.
“The notion that we need separate legislation for this iron ore deposit is not based upon science,” said Gedicks of the next anticipated pro-mining legislation. “It’s based on rhetoric which is scientifically invalid” and emanates from mining corporations and their pals in WMC and the mining association.
Why is there such a push by Walker et al to pass a law, which the governor brazenly says should be acceptable to the mining company?
Gedicks suggested on Fighting Bob Radio that trashing the moratorium and passing the newest mine bill would create a larger long-range opening for future mining projects in Wisconsin. Iron ore mining is being shut down in other places because of depressed prices. So creating jobs is “a delusion.”
Perhaps the January 26 statewide demonstration will serve, as Gedicks said, to “reawaken the conscience” of lawmakers.