May 2012 Newsletter
May 4, 2012
Dear WRPC Member,
Gogebic Taconite (GTac) may have temporarily abandoned its proposed open pit iron mine in the Penokee Hills but company spokesman Bob Seitz says they still want Wisconsin’s mining law changed. Efforts are already under way to develop a new “consensus” on mine legislation that failed to pass the Senate in the last session.
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF), has met with Tim Sullivan, president of the Wisconsin Mining Association and Governor Walker’s unpaid economic adviser, to develop a mining bill acceptable to GTac. According to Meyer, WWF and the mining association “agree on 90 percent” of the issues.
A Brief History of Wisconsin’s Experience with “Consensus” Decision-making
Thirty years ago the Wisconsin Resources Protection council was founded in response to a similar “consensus” process in which Exxon, Kennecott and Inland Steel had a major role in overturning Wisconsin’s nondegradation standard for groundwater protection in favor of allowing groundwater contamination beneath and up to nearly a quarter mile from the mine site to no limit!
Kennecott then obtained a permit for its Flambeau open pit copper and gold mine at Ladysmith in the early 1990s. Kennecott’s own monitoring wells now show the groundwater there is highly polluted with sulfates and various metals. Since when do the polluters get to have privileged access to the political process which develops the rules for how much pollution is allowed while the local communities and tribes who will be directly affected by these rules are excluded from the broad civic discussion? This is a classic case of environmental racism.
Expose the Myth of the Flambeau Mine
Included with this issue of the newsletter is a brochure we recently developed about water pollution problems at the Flambeau mine site that can be used by citizens and tribal members throughout the Lake Superior basin (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Ontario) who are opposed to new mining proposals. If you are attending an event where the brochure could be distributed, please feel free to make copies. A printable version of the brochure is posted on the WRPC web site.
New Mining Proposals in Oneida County, Wisconsin and in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
While the GTac mine proposal has received a great deal of media attention there is continuing interest in metallic sulfide ore bodies in Oneida County,Wisconsin and along the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bordering on Wisconsin’s Marinette County. Included in this newsletter (print edition) is an appeal from our friends in the “Front 40” environmental group to send letters to the EPA in Chicago, asking them to get involved in reviewing HudBay’s mining application since it will affect both Wisconsin and Michigan residents.
Upcoming Public Hearings on Proposed Mineral Leasing in Oneida County, Wisconsin
WRPC member Karl Fate has been very critical of the way the Oneida County Mining Oversight Committee has proposed to lease county forest lands for mining and then decide whether mining can be done in an environmentally responsible manner. Last February Karl testified before the Mining Oversight Committee. Here are some excerpts from his testimony:
Oneida County is blessed with water. Our lakes are now so important and so valuable that we fight over the protection vs. development of our shorelines. Much less obvious, but just as important is the water that flows through our rivers and streams. Ironically, the least obvious and least appreciated of our waters are the most important of all – this is the water in our wetlands.
Wetlands are the foundation of our Rivers and Streams and are critical to the health of our lakes – a great deal of the water that enters our lakes and streams flow through wetlands first…There are huge amounts of water that are held in the wetlands of our county forest lands especially in the Enterprise and Little Rice blocks. This includes the Lynne Site where a mineral deposit lies buried under 50 feet or so of glacial material and water. There is no greater single specific threat to our waters than the prospect of a massive sulfide mine in a vast wetland area of public land in the western part of this county.
There are four factors that contribute to this conclusion.
-the massive amount of waste material that would be generated
-the nature of the waste material and its ability to generate acid mine drainage
– the amount of surface area that would be disturbed
-the saturated environment at the site including the large wetland areas that lie over and adjacent to the deposit.
A primary reason why we have public lands in northern Wisconsin is for watershed protection. Have we forgotten this? There are real conflicts here that have been ignored for 25 years. The idea of leasing public resources for an activity as destructive as sulfide mining in an area where water is so precious should require the highest level of public participation but continues to be denied. It is up to the county board now to fix this.
Public information meetings on whether the public wants mining in the town of Lynne will take place on May 19 in the town of Lynne from 9:00am to noon. A second meeting will be held in Rhinelander from 2:00 to 5:00pm. Final confirmation of the schedule will depend on whether the invited speakers can make it. Check the WRPC website (www.wrpc.net ) for any changes.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary