August 2010 Newsletter
August 26, 2010
Dear WRPC Member,
Winona La Duke, a Native American environmental activist from the White Earth Chippewa reservation in Minnesota, gave the keynote speech at the Third Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering at the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College in Baraga, Michigan on July 30. She spoke about the importance of defending spiritual practices at Eagle Rock, site of Rio Tinto’s proposed nickel sulfide mine. “Don’t give up fighting bad guys, “ she told the audience. “”They’re working 24 hours a day doing bad ideas…They’ve got a lot of money, but we’ve got resistance. And the longer you fight the more expensive their projects become..and you can wear them down. That’s my experience.” Photos of the occupation at Eagle Rock by Teresa Bertossi are featured in the August issue of The Progressive. For more on La Duke’s presentation, see Michele Bourdieu’s article in Keweenaw Now.
After the conference, two of those in attendance, Catherine Parker and Richard Sloat, wrote an open letter to Michigan legislators, reminding them that responsible officials in the Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) did not comply with Michigan’s recently enacted mining law when they permitted the Eagle project. Evidence presented to the DEQ showed that” Kennecott’s sulfide mine proposal does not meet the state’s legal requirements and would result in profound pollution, impairment and destruction of air, water and other natural resources.” They ask legislators to add an amendment to the proposed ban on drilling beneath the Great Lakes, requiring the suspension of all non-ferrous and uranium mining activities while Michigan’s Part 632 mining law and permitting process is reviewed. Read the full text of the letter at Stand for the Land.
In Wisconsin, there is renewed interest in the low grade iron (taconite) reserves of the Penokee-Gogebic Iron Range of Ashland and Iron counties now that a West Virginia-based mining company (Cline Resource and Development) has purchased options on some of the mineral rights owned by the Duluth-based La Pointe Mining Company (see attached stories from the Ashland Current and the Ashland Daily Press). The Penokee-Gogebic Range was mined from the 1880s to the 1960s, when production shifted to the more accessible and low-cost deposits of Minnesota’s Iron Range. As the Minnesota reserves are being depleted and as China’s demand for iron ore has resulted in higher prices, representatives of the Cline Group have met with State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) about Wisconsin’s mine permit process.
The area of interest is located about 25 miles southeast of Ashland, on the western end of the Range. At a meeting of the Midwest Treaty Network on the Bad River Reservation, near Ashland in 2006, Carl Sack, an independent researcher, noted that plans for extracting the taconite would probably involve creating a narrow pit up to 900 feet deep along a twenty-one mile stretch of land from Mellen to Upson. The massive tailings (waste rock) piles, which contain sulfide minerals, have the potential for acid mine drainage. The water that flows off the Penokee-Gogebic Range feeds Ashland and the Bad River watershed.
Any proposed mining would be a major concern to the Bad River Reservation because contaminated mine runoff could harm the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs, a 16,000-acre complex of wetlands, woodlands and sand dune ecosystems. The Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa has long fought to protect the Sloughs, which contain significant wild rice beds, crucial spawning grounds for Lake Superior fisheries, and abundant migratory waterfowl.
Senator Jauch urged mining officials to contact Bad River tribal officials and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission before proceeding any further with their plans. As of this writing, there has been no notification of tribal or Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) officials.
This is the time when we ask our members to use the return envelope to renew their membership in WPRC. If the date on your mailing is anytime before 09/10, it means your annual membership is due ($15 regular or $5 senior/low income). When you renew your membership, please consider an additional donation for WRPC’s legal defense fund. WRPC researcher Laura Gauger (formerly Furtman) is continuing to monitor ongoing pollution at the Flambeau mine site and to petition the Wisconsin DNR to declare Stream C an “impaired water” because of mine pollution runoff into the Flambeau River.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary