By  Al Gedicks, Sociology
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

Abstract: Multinational mining companies are finding it increasingly difficult to get approval for new mining projects in sensitive areas in most advanced capitalist nations. To overcome grassroots environmental resistance to new mining projects, multinational corporations, in cooperation with the state, have attempted a variety of strategies, including the following: (1)legislative initiatives to thwart local democratic control; (2) legal challenges to local zoning authority; (3) mass media campaigns; and (4) attacks on tribal sovereignty. The development and effectiveness of these strategies will be evaluated in the context of the intense controversy over metallic sulfide mining in northern Wisconsin.

Keywords: multinational corporations, mining, environmental resistance, grassroots organizing, corporate strategies, multiracial coalition building.

The permitting of new mines in sensitive areas where local residents place a high value upon a clean environment continues to be a major social problem for the mining industry in most advanced capitalist nations(Prager, 1997). In 1993 the provincial government of British Columbia decided to safeguard a vast northern wilderness from the ravages of mining by designating a 2.5 million-acre watershed of the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers a provincial park. The area is approximately twice the size of the Grand Canyon.  The decision effectively halted plans to build the hemisphere's largest open pit copper and gold mine, the $430 million Windy Craggy project. 

The political struggles over mining projects in Native American communities are about survival - the protection of human health, the culture of a people, and the preservation of the ecosystem. Equally important, as detailed here, they are struggles about democracy, as large corporations seek to exercise their power without effective public participation.

In 1997, President Clinton announced the cancellation of a huge $650 million gold mine near the border of Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Grassroots environmental groups said that acid mine drainage was inevitable because of the highly acidic ore. Moreover, the permanent storage of toxic mine waste at the proposed New World Mine would forever threaten fish, wildlife, and water quality in the area, threatening human health. The cancellation was the culmination of a bitterly contested five year battle to halt the project led by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Beartooth Alliance. 

While grassroots environmental organizing efforts were successful in halting both of these high-profile mining projects,  the mining companies did not  suffer major defeats. In both cases, the companies were assured access to other government lands of comparable mineral worth.  Nevertheless, the mining industry is not used to the kind of grassroots environmental organizing that stopped the New World and Windy Craggy projects.

The kind of resistance that occurred here is indicative both of the organizing skills of people whose livelihood and culture are threatened, as well as the failures of corporate strategies in seeking to buy-off local communities in secret negotiations with elected officials.

While images of devastated landscapes from Appalachian coal strip mining became part of the national environmental consciousness in the 1960s, the far more extensive damage from unregulated hardrock mining of metals like gold, silver, copper and uranium has only come to be defined as a major environmental health problem quite recently. In 1989,for example,the U.S. Bureau of Mines reported that mining has contaminated more than 12,000 miles of rivers and streams and 180,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs in the United States(Kleinman,1989:16i). At least 60 of the 1381 sites now on the U.S. Superfund hazardous waste cleanup list are former mineral operations(EPA,1997:4). The largest Superfund site is a former copper and silver mining and smelting area where pollutants have migrated 130 miles along Montana's Clark Fork River and contaminated a land area one-fifth the size of Rhode Island(Moore and Luoma, 1991:8). 

Even though the hardrock mining industry  generates about the same amount of hazardous waste as all other industries combined,Congress specifically exempted mining wastes from regulation as hazardous waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act(RCRA)of 1976. Moreover, unlike most manufacturing industries, the U.S. mining industry is not required to report its toxic emissions to state and federal regulators(Young, 1992:35).

Special exemptions enjoyed by the hardrock mining industry has allowed this industry to delay public scrutiny and widespread public opposition that has characterized the siting of hazardous waste facilities in the wake of Love Canal and other toxic contamination disasters (Szasz,1994; Gerrard,1994). However, as the higher-grade mineral deposits are exhausted and new mining ventures exploit lower-grade ores in less accessible and more fragile environments, the conflicts between mineral extraction activities and environmental protection becomes all the more visible and more likely to generate grassroots opposition movements(Gedicks, 1993:46-47). This is nowhere more evident than in the attempt over the last twenty-five years to transform large portions of northern Wisconsin into a new mining district.

A New Mining District in Northern Wisconsin?

Beginning with the discovery of the Flambeau copper-gold sulfide deposit in 1968, northern Wisconsin became an attractive target for mineral exploration. The relatively modest 1.9 million ton Flambeau deposit was soon overshadowed by the 55 million ton zinc-copper sulfide deposit discovered by Exxon Minerals in 1976. By the early 1980s, as many as fifteen multinational mining corporations were exploring the state for mineral deposits. 

Despite several attempts by powerful mining corporations like Kennecott Copper Corporation,and Exxon Minerals,only one mine has actually been constructed. Grassroots citizen, tribal,  environmental, and sportfishing groups have blocked mining projects in Ladysmith (1976), Crandon and Lynne(Gedicks, 1993). Faced with a series of embarrassing defeats, the mining industry, in cooperation with the state,initiated a variety of strategies to overcome grassroots environmental resistance to new mining projects. These strategies have included the following,among others: (1) legislative initiatives to thwart local democratic control; (2) legal challenges to local zoning authority; (3) mass media campaigns; and (4) attacks on tribal sovereignty. In his survey of the global anti-environmental movement, Andrew Rowell has argued that "the intensity of the corporate counter-attack against a burgeoning environmental opposition has been so powerful that in countries like America,it has, at best,derailed,at most, destroyed democracy itself (1996:69)." While this statement may impress many as an exaggeration,for many Wisconsin rural communities which have had some degree of success in opposing new mining projects, this is an all too accurate characterization of the erosion of democracy.

Legislative Initiatives to Thwart Local Democratic Control

Before mining companies can receive permits to mine in Wisconsin,  they  must have the approval of local units of government --a major obstacle for both Kennecott Copper Corporation and Exxon Minerals.  A decade after withdrawing from the Flambeau project, Kennecott reevaluated the  project and discovered that the copper lode was an extraordinarily rich deposit. In 1987 Kennecott reactivated its mine application for a scaled-down version of the defeated project. 

But the company could not meet the tough environmental requirements contained in county zoning ordinance and thus could not get a state permit. In one of Kennecott's "issue papers," the company identified "a small vocal opposition group" whose concerns about mining impacts could be "neutralized" if local leaders and company officials could negotiate a "local agreement" addressing some of these concerns(Kennecott, 1988). To avoid what the company called "onerous local approvals ," a Kennecott official drafted the so-called "local agreement" law which allows mining companies to negotiate a local agreement in lieu of zoning permission. Such negotiations are confined to elected officials.  The bill was attached to a budget bill and passed without public hearings or debate in 1988. Shortly thereafter,Rusk County gave in to the mining company's threat to sue for "deprivation of economic use of its property" and signed a local agreement before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had even issued an environmental impact statement (EIS)(Seely,1991).

Nine years after withdrawing from the Crandon project, Exxon and Canada-based Rio Algom formed the Crandon Mining Company (CMC) and resurrected plans to extract 55 million tons of zinc-copper sulfide ore at the headwaters of the Wolf River in northeastern Wisconsin. Shortly thereafter, CMC began closed door negotiations with local units of government to secure advance permission for the mine through a local agreement. Citizens in the Town of Nashville objected to the closed door negotiations but their protests were ignored. 

Seeking to prevent their town board from giving advance permission for the proposed mine, 230 out of 301 Nashville voters petitioned for a Special Town Meeting. Citizens wanted to vote on whether the town should enter into a local agreement with CMC before all the issues surrounding the mine had been discussed in a master hearing. 

Among the major problems local citizens had with the local agreement was the attempt to exempt the mining company from all town zoning ordinances, regulations and laws and to limit the powers of local government and the courts to directly or indirectly prohibit mining. The agreement also gives final approval for the disposal of all wastes associated with the project. Over its lifetime, the mine would generate an estimated 44 million tons of wastes.  Exxon used the full extent of its financial and political power to get the local agreements approved. They financed full page ads in local newspapers, bombarded local residents with radio ads and bussed in  mine supporters  to voice support for the local agreement at the Nashville township hearings. In December 1996, the town board voted to approve the local agreement with Exxon.

Five critics of the local agreement then filed petitions to run for town of Nashville positions in the coming April 1997 election.  And in February 1997, the Forest County Chapter of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council filed a lawsuit accusing the Town Board and the Crandon Mining Company of holding more than a dozen illegal closed meetings to develop a local agreement. In announcing the lawsuit,  one of the plaintiffs and a candidate for town chairman, noted that it was being brought "as a class action on behalf of all citizens whose right to speak out and be heard by their elected officials has been ignored. It is brought on behalf of all residents and tribal members who live and work in the Wolf River and Wisconsin River watersheds in harms way of the potential havoc that this mine may cause and whose rights to clean air and water have been forgotten. These Local Agreements were hammered out in secret, behind closed doors. They are weak and ineffective. They do not protect the citizens of Nashville, Forest County, and the state or protect the rights of tribal members of the Native American nations who live in the two watersheds which will be directly affected by these Agreements...We can't let our communities be sacrificed by corporate greed or let 'feel good' television commericals, paid for by Exxon, cause us to forget what is right(Sleeter, 1997)." 

In the April 1997 local election, four out of the five town board members were voted out of office. 

Legal Challenges to Local Zoning Authority

The power of large, multinational mining corporations to threaten lawsuits against small rural townships who dare to withold permission for exploration and mining can be very intimidating. While Exxon/Rio Algom was meeting with the Nashville town board to develop a local agreement for a zinc-copper sulfide mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River, BHP Minerals International,Australia's largest company, was applying for a conditional use permit to conduct mineral exploration and drilling not far from Exxon's proposed Wolf River mine. If both Exxon and BHP were to proceed with their mining plans, the township would be totally surrounded by metallic sulfide mines. 

At the public hearing on BHP's application before the Nashville zoning committee, local residents testified that there were no examples of successful sulfide mine reclamation anywhere. They argued that the permit should be denied because the cumulative impacts of exploration and mining had not been identified,the use was not consistent with the development pattern in the town's land use plan, and did not meet the health and welfare concerns of community residents as expressed in a public opinion survey (Monte, 1996a). 

Shortly after the zoning committee voted to deny BHP's exploratory drilling request, the company filed a lawsuit against the township and the members of the zoning board threatening each member of the zoning committee with confiscation of their property and/or wages. The lawsuit accused the zoning board of voting against BHP's application "for reasons that were unrelated to the Ordinance standards."  BHP also alleged that the committee's denial was "arbitrary and capricious and takes BHP's property without just compensation in violation of the United State's and Wisconsin Constitutions(BHP v. Town of Nashville, 1996:13)." The town's Board of Adjustment then overturned the zoning committee's decision and gave BHP permission to drill. BHP dropped the lawsuit.

Mass Media Campaigns

In 1994 Roper Research conducted a survey of how the public perceived various industries. Mining came in last after tobacco(Prager, 1997:37). While the mining industry attempts to portray the mine permitting process as a purely technical and scientific process, the industry cannot mine without public aproval. A major component of the backlash against environmentalism in the United States and Canada are the mass media campaigns conducted with the help of professional public relations firms(Panos, 1997:13).  In 1990 U.S. businesses spent an estimated $500 million on hiring the services of anti-environmental public relations(PR) professionals and on "greenwashing" their corporate image (Bleifuss,1995:3). 

The former chairman and chief executive officer of Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Company, one of the most notorious mine polluters, encouraged his industry colleagues to establish organizations to coordinate and implement "image-enhancement programs for mining"(Ward,1992:33). 

The immediate impetus to Exxon's media campaign in Wisconsin was the "Save Our Clean Waters Speaking Tour," organized by the Wolf Watershed Educational Project and the Midwest Treaty Network,which built upon previous efforts of grassroots environmental groups, sportfishing groups and Native American nations.  When Exxon announced its plan to divert mine wastewater into the Wisconsin River, the speaking tour expanded to include cities and towns along that river. This opened up a whole new constituency that had not previously been concerned with the project. After each community event, organizers left behind a core of grassroots supporters who carried on the work of coalition building and community action.

Exxon accused mine opponents of spreading misinformation about the project without specifically identifying a single example. Exxon's full page ads emphasized that "The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cannot approve a mine that will threaten public safety,harm the environment,or be bad for the local economy(CMC, 1996)." Exxon's tactic of using the Wisconsin DNR to reassure the public was problematic because the pro-mining Governor had just eliminated the Public Intervenor's office, the state's environmental watchdog, and transformed the DNR into a political patronage agency. All of the state's environmental, conservation and sportfishing organizations were opposed to these moves. Both actions severely undermined public confidence in the state's ability and commitment to protect clean water and public health and safety from the risks of mine pollution. As in the case of hazardous waste facilities, public distrust of government regulatory agencies fueled the local opposition to the siting of these facilities(Bacow and Milkey,1987:160; Szasz,1994:104).

The speaking tour was also designed to build public support for legislative passage of a sulfide mining moratorium bill that would prohibit the opening of a new mine in a sulfide ore body until a similar mine had been operated elsewhere and closed for ten years without pollution from acid mine drainage.  By focusing public discussion and debate on the problem of acid mine drainage, mine opponents were able to shift the discussion from the issue of mine production, which leaves the state, to the issue of mine waste, which remains in the local community and may have long term and serious effects on both the environment and the health of local populations. A study by the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin warned that "the potential for damage may be so severe as to require perpetual monitoring and maintenance similar to that done by federal authorities with radioactive waste material(McNamara,1976:51)."  The identification of acid mine drainage as the most serious mining pollution problem became a "political icon" for the mining opposition in the same sense that the fifty-five gallon drum became a political icon for the toxic waste protest movement of the 1980s(Szasz,1994:63-64).

Prior to the Wisconsin Senate vote on the mining moratorium bill, slick television commercials promoted the wonders of modern mining technology and associated it with the warm, fuzzy images of the idealized version of life in the small, northern Wisconsin town of Crandon in Forest County, where Exxon and Rio Algom want to construct a large underground zinc and copper mine.
 The ads show geese flying over a lake, a sparkling stream and school kids. But the ads did not discuss controversial issues about groundwater and surface water contamination from acid mine drainage and heavy metals,the drawdown of local water supplies in the vicinity of the mine,and the effects of discharging upwards of one million gallons of treated mine wastewater into the Wisconsin River every day for thirty years. 

Exxon's second television ad featured United Steelworkers of America (USWA) union president Dennis Bosanac of Local 1114 in Milwaukee with the union seal in the background. He says:

Some legislators in Madison want to stop mining. That's like asking over 10,000 working people to stop breathing. Don't they know that thousands and thousands of us work in jobs that depend on mining? Don't they know how important mining has been and will be to Wisconsin?  We want to be part of it. Those high paying jobs belong in Wisconsin, not someplace else...Working together for the future.(Crandon Mining Company)

The Wolf Watershed Educational Project issued a press release explaining why the ad was misleading. First, the mining moratorium bill would not ban mining in Wisconsin. Instead, the bill requires that prior to obtaining a permit, the applicant must demonstrate that a similar mine has been operated and closed for at least ten years without pollution from acid mine drainage or heavy metal contamination. Second, if the Crandon mine is not opened, potential jobs will not travel out of state,because the ore cannot be moved.  Mining equipment companies  will still receive contracts from outside Wisconsin. And while Exxon promises 400 permanent high-paying jobs in the Crandon area, there is no assurance that these jobs will not go to already skilled miners who, after six months in Wisconsin, will become "local" residents.   The May 1997 decision of the Copper Range Company to withdraw its permit for acid solution mining at the White Pine copper mine in Michigan will provide further incentive for the remaining miners to seek jobs elsewhere.

Third, The Crandon Mining Company(CMC)ad never mentions that Exxon and Rio Algom,a Canadian mining company, are the co-owners of CMC.  This is a significant omission because the ad leads the viewer to believe that the United Steelworkers(USWA) support the companies behind CMC. Nothing could be further from the truth. The USWA has been in the forefront against Rio Algom on the issue of worker health and safety at the Elliot Lake uranium mines in Canada. As the main union involved in uranium mining at Elliot Lake,the USWA expressed deep concern over the health effects of radiation from the early days of mining. The Ontario Workman's Compensation Board reported in 1969 that 16 out of 20 deaths of Elliot Lake miners were the result of lung cancer. A USWA survey showed that"Rio Algom had consistently underestimated hazards in virtually every part of the mining complex and mills,by deliberately under-reading radiation levels(Moody, 1991: 127)." Despite an unprecedented media,lobbying and mass mailing campaign, Exxon, RTZ-Kennecott and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Association were unable to prevent an overwhelming vote in the Wisconsin Senate (29 - 3) in favor of the mining moratorium bill. 

Seeking to prevent passage of the bill in the Wisconsin Assembly, Exxon set up and funded the Coalition for Fair Regulation(CFR) in the hope of mobilizing other industries, such as the paper mills, which have not yet been part of the mining moratorium battle. The mining industry has been advocating these kind of broad-based coalitions with timbering, land development and paper production as a way to increase its political clout on key legislative battles. The CFR steering committee includes the largest mining and mining equipment manufacturers in the world. The attempt to divide workers against environmentalists failed. Several unions, including the steelworkers and the construction workers,passed resolutions in favor of the mining moratorium bill. The unprecedented public support resulted in legislative approval of the mining moratorium bill by an overwhelming margin. While the legislation does not stop the mine permit process, it creates environmental standards that the industry will be hard pressed to meet.

Attacks on Tribal Sovereignty

Indian control over reservation air and water quality is long overdue. Tribal lands were overlooked in the original versions of many federal environmental laws of the 1960s and 1970s,including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act (Knox,1993:54). A direct result of this oversight has been the bioaccumulation of mercury and other toxic chemicals in fish and game to levels posing "substantial health, ecological, and cultural risks to a Native American population that relies heavily on local fish and game for subsistence (U.S.E.P.A., 1992:ix)." As a remedy, amendments to these laws have been enacted in the last decade to give tribes the same standing as states to enforce environmental standards.  The position of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is that the amendments to the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts are based upon the inherent authority of the tribes to protect the health and welfare of their members (National Indian Policy Center, 1994:ii). In 1994-95, four Wisconsin Indian Tribes asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for greater regulatory authority over reservation air and water quality.

In 1995-96,  the Sokaogon Chippewa,  Oneida and Lac du Flambeau Tribes were granted independent authority from the EPA to regulate water quality on their reservations. The Sokaogon Chippewa's reservation,famous for its wild rice, is just a mile downstream from Exxon's proposed Wolf River mine site.  Tribal regulatory authority would affect all upstream industrial and municipal facilities, including Exxon's proposed mine. Because Swamp Creek flows into the Sokaogon Chippewa's Rice Lake, the tribe has to give approval for any physical, chemical or biological upstream activity that might degrade their wild rice beds(Behm, 1995).  The Wisconsin DNR recognizes that the Chippewa's wild rice is "at the center of their identity as a people(1986:108). 

At public hearings on the Sokaogon Chippewa's application for water regulatory authority, local citizens, lake associations and the Wolf River Watershed Alliance testified in support of the tribe's application. However, the Wisconsin Mining Association warned that tribal water quality authority "could be the most controversial and contentious environmental development affecting the state in decades(Buchen, 1995:1)." 

The Sokaogon Chippewa's water regulatory authority is not the only concern of powerful corporate interests. The Forest County Potawatomi Tribe is seeking federal approval of clean air standards that would affect the ability of large industry to pollute the region's air. Exxon estimates that if the mine is built, it will emit about 247 tons of particulates into the air per year. The Potawatomi air quality regulations would only affect facilities that release at least 250 tons of pollutants per year. Whether Exxon falls under the regulatory cutoff point, the tribe fears that the airborne mining dust that contains heavy metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium will enter the food chain and accumulate in tribal members who consume fish and wildlife in the area.

Two pro-mining northern Wisconsin Republican legislators commented: "As legislators and concerned citizens we stand united in opposing the imposition of obscure provisions in the federal Clean Air Act which deny the citizens of the state due process, violate state sovereignty and threaten the economic stability of many northern Wisconsin counties and communities in northern Michigan(Seratti and Ourada, 1995)."    Both the governor and the Secretary of the DNR urged EPA to deny tribal regulatory authority over air and water quality standards(Mayers and Seppa, 1994). Meanwhile, a coalition of legislators, business leaders and a banker called upon Congress to change the Clean Air Act to disallow tribal authority over clean air standards(Walters, 1995). Powerful corporate interests are using scare tactics to suggest that Indian sovereignty over reservation resources is an economic threat to small business owners and ordinary citizens, while they ignore the serious potential for long term damage to the resource and economic base of northern Wisconsin from large scale mining and waste disposal(Gedicks,1993:167).

Within a week of EPA approval of Sokaogon Chippewa and Oneida water quality authority, Wisconsin Attorney General James Doyle sued the EPA in federal court, demanding that the federal government reverse its decision to let Indian tribes make their own water pollution laws. "...all bodies of water in Wisconsin are public and belong to no one, not even an Indian tribe," said James Haney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Justice Department. Therefore, according to Haney, it is the state's responsibility, not individuals or tribes, to set and enforce water pollution standards in Wisconsin (Flaherty, 1996). 


As grassroots resistance to environmentally destructive mining activities succeeds in delaying, modifying or stopping new mining projects, multinational mining corporations and state agencies have defined this resistance as a social problem in the same way that local opposition to the siting of hazardous waste facilities was defined as a problem in the 1980s(Szasz,1994:105).Some of the same strategies that were used to overcome local opposition to the siting of hazardous waste facilities have been used to overcome local opposition to new mining projects.

Among the most important of these strategies have been state preemption of local siting authority and the use of financial compensation to offset community costs with more benefits(Mazmanian and Morell,1992;Bacow and Milkey,1987).While preemption removes local control over land use from the hands of local opponents it does not preempt all forms of local opposition. If opponents of unwanted facilities cannot exercise their right to withhold needed zoning or other permit approvals they will simply use more creative measures. Preemption laws may also encourage opponents of a facility to challenge the legality of prememption laws. In 1981 the State of Wisconsin adopted a negotiated siting process for hazardous waste facilities after the courts rejected the state's preemption effort(Mazmanian and Morell,1992:189). The addition of a negotiation process still did not result in the siting of a single new offsite hazardous waste facility(Ibid.) The experiences of other states were no more successful. 

The strategy of offsetting community costs with benefits, such as additional public services or tax revenues, distracts attention from reducing the potential environmental harm from a facility. The assumption that local opposition could be bought off was offensive to many involved in the toxic waste protest movement. 

Even if communities were willing to give up their health and safety concerns for financial compensation, there is still a fundamental issue of social injustice. If hazardous waste facilities were allocated to those communities most in need of any additional source of income, these facilities would end up in the poorest and most oppressed communities, exacerbating the already serious problem of "environmental racism" (Szasz,1994:110; Bullard, 1993). 

In the Wisconsin case of the local agreement negotiated between the Town of Nashville and Exxon/Rio Algom, the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Tribe,the most directly affected, was not even consulted during the negotiations. Since the Mole Lake Tribe stands to be the most adversely affected community by the proposed mine and toxic waste dump,and since reservation land is held in trust by the federal government,this could be one of the most serious obstacles to federal approval of the mine project. The courts have ruled that federal agencies cannot subordinate Indian interests to other public purposes except when specifically authorized by Congres to do so(Smith,1994:2).

The question remains: have the corporate and state strategies for overcoming local resistance to new mining projects been any more effective than similar strategies developed to neutralize the toxic waste movement of the 1980s? In the case of local opposition to the Kennecott/RTZ copper mine in Ladysmith, the strategy met with some degree of success. The mine was constructed after numerous delays, court challenges and civil disobedience actions at the mine site. However, this was a relatively small mine by industry standards and the grade of ore was rich enough to allow the company to ship the unprocessed ore to Canada and thereby avoid the construction of a permanent waste disposal site in Ladysmith. While the local opposition was highly organized and motivated, the statewide opposition to the mine was limited.

The local resistance to Exxon/Rio Algom's Wolf River mine is a different story. While the company has a local agreement for their proposed mine they also have a full-blown citizen/tribal insurgency that has thrown out a pro-mining town board, replaced it with an anti-mining town board and filed legal challenges to the local agreement that could effectively halt the project. In contrast to the Ladysmith experience, Exxon/Rio Algom have not been able to contain the resistance movement to the local area. The resistance movement is statewide.

This was nowhere more evident than in the extensive grassroots lobbying campaign organized by supporters of the mining moratorium bill. It was hardly coincidental that after Assembly approval of the bill, Exxon announced that they were selling out their interest in the Wolf River mine to Rio Algom. Although the company emphasized that their decision was based on general business needs, polls indicated that the majority of Wisconsin citizens were opposed to the project.

While mine opponents cheered Exxon's withdrawal, it is not the end of the battle. However,the willingness of one of the world's largest corporations to walk away from a large mineral project potentially worth more than $4 billion tends to reinforce the conclusion that the environmental, sportfishing and Native Nations coalition that came together in embryonic form during the Ladysmith mine battle has developed into an effective, mature and broad based statewide movement.

The movement's strength is due, in no small part, to the delegitimzation of state and industry authority as they try to force their mining agenda upon communities that are increasingly aware of the health risks of metallic sulfide mining. The increased awareness was laregly a result of the strategic decision of mine opponents to focus public discussion and debate on the mine waste issue, and especially the industry's unsolved problem of acid mine drainage. The same stiffening of resistance that characterized industry and government efforts to site hazardous waste facilities in the 1980s can be seen in the Wisconsin opposition to the construction of mine waste dumps at the headwaters of the state's pristine rivers.

Unlike the opposition movement of the 1980s however, the resistance to mining is not a typical environmental movement. It is a rural-based, multiracial, grassroots rebellion that has forged significant links with an urban, labor and student constituency. The diversity of this coalition has continually confounded the mining industry and thwarted attempts to isolate the mining opposition from the political mainstream.

Does Exxon's defeat mean that the mining industry has exhausted its strategies for overcoming local resistance to new mining projects? Not quite; it simply means that we can expect the corporations to shift the locus of conflict from the local and state level to the national and international level. Under provisions of the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) for example, Wisconsin's mining moratorium law could be considered a form of expropriation and a foreign mining corporation like Rio Algom could sue for damages.

Regardless of the MAI, mining industry leaders are worried about their ability to contain a growing multiracial environmental resistance movement in Wisconsin. A recent editorial in North American Mining warns industry leaders that if they continue to dictate to communities they will face a "time bomb of socio-economic concerns which demand just as much attention, patience, cost and effort from operators as environmental protection does today." As examples of where the industry has ignored this reality, the editorial points to conflicts "still brewing between mining companies and local peoples in the state of Wisconsin in the United States, Irian Jaya in Indonesia, the provinces and territories of Canada and states and territories in Australia(1997:3)" In all of these places the industry faces similar political coalitions between environmentalists and native peoples.


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 1994 Whose Backyard, Whose Risk: Fear and Fairness in Toxic and Nuclear Waste Siting. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.
Grade, Jeffrey T.
 1994 "Speaking Out for a Strong Mining Industry."  Keynote address to the Wisconsin  Mining Association. December 1.
Helvarg, David 
 1994 The War Against the Greens: The 'Wise Use' Movement, the New Right, and  Anti-Environmental Violence.  San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.
 Hodges, C.A.
 1995 "Mineral Resources, Environmental Issues, and Land Use." Science: 268: 1305-1312.
Imhoff, Aviva
 1996 "The Big, Ugly Australian Goes to Ok Tedi." Multinational Monitor 17:3:15-18.
Johnson, Tamara
 1994 "A grassroots perspective," editorial in The Northern Miner(Canada)79:47. January 24.
Kalish, David
 1996 "Feds near land-swap deal to stop controversial mine." Wisconsin State Journal.  August 10.
 1988 Issue Paper #1: Local Agreement/Local Approvals.  April 25.
Kleinman, Robert L.P. 
 1989 "Acid Mine Drainage."  Engineering and Mining Journal. 190:7:16i-16n.July.
 Knox, Margaret
 1993 "Their Mother's Keepers." Sierra Magazine. 78:2: 50-57, 82-84.
Maller, Peter
 1995 "Clean-air provision may give tribes ace."  Milwaukee Sentinel. January 6.
May, Edwarde R. and Robert W. Shilling
 1977 "Case Study of Environmental Impact: Flambeau Project."  Mining Congress  Journal. (January): 39-44.
Mayers, Jeff
 1998 "Exxon abandons Crandon Mining." Wisconsin State Journal. January 24.
Mayers, Jeff and Nathan Seppa
 1994 "Thompson vexed by tribe's move."  Wisconsin State Journal. December 13.
Mazmanian, Daniel and David Morell
 1992 Beyond Superfailure: America's Toxics Policy for the 1990's. Boulder, CO:Westview Press.
 McAteer, J. Davitt
 1990 "Fifth Annual Mine Safety Ranking Announced."  Occupational Safety and Health  Law Center.  Washington, D.C.
McNamara, Michael D.
 1976 "Metallic Mining in the Lake Superior Region: Perspectives and Projections," Institute for Environmental Studies Report #64. Madison, WI:University of Wisconsin.
Mercando, Lawrence E.
 1988 Letter to James Wimmer. August 25.
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
 1997 Critique of "Environmentally Responsible Mining: Results and Thoughts  Regarding a Survey of North American Metallic Mineral Mines."  Madison, WI. 6pp.
Monte, Mike
 1997 "Sorting out the truth." Pioneer Express (Crandon, WI). March 3.
 1996a "BHP Minerals International meets with Nashville zoning." Pioneer Express  (Crandon, WI). April 22.
  1996b "BHP Mineral files lawsuit and granted zoning request." Pioneer Express  (Crandon, WI). August 12.
 1995 "Indian tribes: our new environmental conscience?" Wisconsin Outdoor News.  July 21.
Moody, Roger
 1991 Plunder!  London: Partizans/CAFCA.
Moore,Johnnie N. and Samuel N. Luoma
 1991 "Mining's Hazardous Waste," Clementine(Spring):8-15. Washington, D.C.:Mineral Policy Center.
Nathans, Aaron
 1998 ""52.5% in state poll oppose Crandon mine," Wisconsin State Journal. January 13.
National Indian Policy Center
 1994 Survey of Tribal Actions to Protect Water Quality and the Implementation of the  Clean Water Act.  Washington, D.C.: George Washington University.
North American Mining magazine
 1997 "Smart Mining Companies Emphasize Local Partnerships," 1:9 November. Reno, NV.
 The Northern Miner
 1995 "Mineral projects held hostage." 80:46(January 16).
O'Callaghan, Kate
 1992 "Whose Agenda for America?"  Audubon (Sept./Oct): 80-91.
Paloski, Lynn
 1996 "Local counties reject mining in county forests."  Hard Rain 26:3. Eau Claire,  Wisconsin: Northern Thunder.
Panos Institute
 1997 "Green or Mean?: Environment and industry five years on from the Earth  Summit." Panos Media Briefing No. 24. London: Panos (June).
People for the West! 
 1997 "PFW Organizes first chapters in Wisconsin!" People for the West (newspaper)  9:9. Pueblo, CO.
Peterson, Paul
 1995 "White Pine mine to close in September."  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. July 13.
Poole, William
 1992 "Neither Wise nor Well."  Sierra Magazine (Nov./Dec.): 59-61, 88-93.
Portney, Kent E.
 1988 "The Role of Economic Factors in Lay Perceptions of Risk," in Charles E. Davis and James P. Lester(eds.)Dimensions of Hazardous Waste Politics and Policy. New York:Greenwood Press.
Prager, Sharon
 1997 "Changing North America's Mind-Set about Mining." Engineering and Mining  Journal 198:2:36-44 (February).
Purdum, Todd S.
 1996 "Clinton plays an environment card at Yellowstone.'  Wisconsin State Journal.August 13.
Ripley Earle A., Robert E. Redmann and Adele A. Crowder
 1996 Environmental Effects of Mining. Delray Beach, Florida: St. Lucie Press.
Robbins, Jim
 1997 "For Indians, Latest Fight is over the Environment."  New York Times. February  9.
Rowell, Andrew
 1996 Green Backlash: Global Subversion of the Environmental Movement. London:  Routledge.
Ryser, Rudolph
 1991 "Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier." Occasional Paper # 16. Kenmore,  Washington: Center for World Indigenous Studies.
Schneider, Keith
 1992 "Owners fight U.S. for use of land." Wisconsin State Journal. January 20.
 Seely, Ron
 1997a "Crandon Mining begins TV ads." Wisconsin State Journal. January 30.
 1997b "Courting the lawmakers about Crandon." Wisconsin State Journal. March 8.
 1997c "Moratorium won't close mining company." Wisconsin State Journal. March 11.
 1996a "92 candidates against mining, environmental groups say." Wisconsin State    Journal. July 30.
 1996b "Local governments say no thanks to mine plan." Wisconsin State Journal.    November 3.
 1991 "Northern officials give state poor grades." Wisconsin State Journal. March 24.
 1982 "Mining has strong potential in Wisconsin." Wisconsin State Journal. January 31.
Seratti, Lorraine and Tom Ourada
 1995 "Air Redesignation Concerns Legislators." The Forest Republican. May 4.
Sleeter, Charles
 1997 Press release on the filing of a lawsuit against the Town of Nashville and Crandon  Mining Company.  February 10.
 Smith, Janet
 1994 Comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Green Bay Field Office. November.
Snow, Donald
 1996 "The Pristine Silence of Leaving It All Alone," in Philip D. Brick and R.McGregor Cawley(eds.)A Wolf in the Garden: The Land Rights Movement and the New Environmental Debate. Lanham,MD:Rowman and Littlefield.
Stauber, John
 1994 "Flack Attack." PR Watch 1:3 (2nd Quarter).
Sutherland, Laura
 1994 Wisconsin Public Intervenor's Comments on Notification of Intent by Crandon  Mining Company. February.
Szasz, Andrew
 1994  Ecopopulism: Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice. Minneapolis, MN:University of Minnesota Press.
Theimer, Sharon
 1998 "Crandon Mining Co. outspends its opponents by 4-1 in lobbying." Wisconsin State Journal. February 3.
Theo, Peter
 1997 Letter from Coalition for Fair Regulation. Sussex, WI.
Todd, J.W. and D.W. Struhsacker
 1997 "Environmentally Responsible Mining: Results and Thoughts Regarding a Survey  of North American Metallic Mineral Mines." Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc.  February 17.
Trueheart, Charles
 1993 "Canada Saves Wild Area: Mine Project Blocked in British Columbia."  Washington Post. June 24.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
 1996 Evaluation of Groundwater Modeling at the Crandon Mine Site.  Vicksburg,  Mississippi. February 21.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
 1993 Acid Drainage from Mines on the National Forests. Washington, D.C.
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
 1997 "Risks Posed by Bevill Wastes." Washington, D.C.
 1992 Tribes at Risk: The Wisconsin Tribes Comparative Risk Project. Washington,D.C.
 1985 Report to Congress: Wastes from the Extraction and Beneficiation of Metallic Ores, Phosphate Rock, Asbestos, Overburden from Uranium Mining, and Oil Shale. Washington,D.C. (December).
Walters, Steven
 1995 "Tribes request could jeopardize current, future jobs, groups say." Milwaukee  Journal Sentinel. April 27.
 1994 "Tribe seeks air pollution protection within 60 miles of reservation." Milwaukee  Sentinel. December 13.
Ward, Milton
 1992 "Mining and the environment: in the long run we are all...survivors."  Minerals  Industry International. Bulletin of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. No. 1006: 33- 41. May.
Wichman, Julie
 1996 "Elephants leave tailings behind: State Republicans stampede from mining bill."  The Shepherd Express (Milwaukee, WI). May 23.
Wilkinson, Todd
 1997 "Who Pays the Bill for Mining Leftovers?" Christian Science Monitor. April 17.
Wilson, Tom
 1997 Phone conversation. July 2.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
 1986 Final Environmental Impact Statement, Exxon Coal and Minerals Co., Zinc- Copper MIne, Crandon, WI. Madison, WI. November.
Wolf Watershed Educational Project
 1997 "The Truth Behind Exxon's Advertising Hype." The Shepherd Express  (Milwaukee, WI). Feburary 27.
Wowapi, Wotanin
 1997 "Montana sues EPA over Fort Peck Tribes."  News from Indian Country. Mid-June.
Young, John E.
 1992 "Mining the Earth," Worldwatch Paper #109. Washington, D.C.: Worldwatch Institute
Zaleski, Rob
 1997 "Mine foes coo over coup." Capital Times (Madison, WI). May 10.


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