May 2013 Newsletter
May 2, 2013
Dear WRPC Member,
Gogebic Taconite and their supporters in the legislature succeeded in passing the Bad River Watershed Destruction Act but they are losing the battle for public acceptance of mountaintop removal mining in the Penokee Hills. The financial interests behind the legislation, including the Cline Group and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, contributed $15.6 million to the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor Scott Walker between 2010 and June 2012, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. They also found that mining deregulation interests outspent opponents of mining deregulation by 610 to 1.
Mining interests had the money, but we had the people. In every public hearing on the Iron Mining bill, the overwhelming majority of citizens and tribal members spoke out against this ill-conceived legislation. As Zoltan Grossman, one of the veterans of the Crandon mine campaign has noted:
It’s not just about mobilizing people to pass or defeat a bill, but working on a bill in order to mobilize people. In 1997 we “won” on the Mining Moratorium Bill and were very happy. The problem was that most of our southern Wisconsin supporters falsely thought that the bill had stopped the Crandon mine, and it was an uphill struggle to keep the fight going. In 2001, we “lost” on the bill to ban the use of cyanide in mining, but we had educated and mobilized so many people in the process that we had formed a critical mass, and the mining companies began to pull out of Crandon. The bill we “lost” did as much to stop the mine as the bill we “won.” What ultimately counts is growing support at the grassroots, and that’s where the movement is winning.
The mining industry suffered a major defeat by a grassroots citizen and tribal conservation movement at Crandon. The Iron Mining bill is an attempt to prevent that from happening again. (see “The Fight Against Wisconsin’s Iron Mine”).
BadRiver Ojibwe’s Legal Defense Fund to Stop the Penokee Mine
The Bad River Ojibwe Tribe has promised to use “every avenue of resistance” to oppose the proposed taconite open pit mine upstream from their reservation, including lawsuits, regulatory authority and grassroots resistance. The Wisconsin legislature did not consult with the Ojibwe about the proposed mine but treaty-protected rights will play a major role in any mine permitting decision (see Brian Pierson’s enclosed article). There will be a campout at Copper Falls State Park from May 24-26, starting with a fundraiser at the Bad River Casino on May 24. The gathering will focus on tours of the area and networking. Learn more about the issue by visiting the tribe’s website.
Part of the movement to protect the Penokee Hills and the waters of the Lake Superior Region will involve direct action. The Stevens Point Action Camp will be May 17-19 and will focus on direct action training workshops. To sign up or get more information, e-mail: centralwiactioncamp @ gmail.com
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe will be setting up a camp in the Penokees. Other nations and groups are also likely to begin setting up homes bases in the Penokees. More about this to come.
Uranium found in water samples at Rio Tinto’s Eagle Mine
Underwriters Laboratories in Indiana found that a water sample taken from the leak sump at the bottom of the storage area for waste rock from mining tunnel excavation contained 72.6 parts per billion of uranium. This exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum concentration level for uranium under the Safe Drinking Water Act at 30 parts per billion, with higher levels considered unsafe. This finding did not violate any state or federal regulatory permits at the mine because Rio Tinto’s rock storage area and water treatment plant are not governed by the Safe Drinking Water Act, but by the company’s mining and groundwater discharge permits. Rio Tinto spokesman Dan Blondeau said “The uranium is being contained and treated and poses no risk to the environment or the community.” However, it is unclear where this uranium is being “contained.”
Save the Wild U.P. at Rio Tinto’s Annual Shareholders Meeting
Alexandra Thebert, Executive Director of Save the Wild U.P. addressed Rio Tinto shareholders about the ongoing opposition to the Eagle Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on April 18:
Our community has been fighting the Eagle Mine since the project began nearly a decade ago…To set the stage, mining engineers have said this permit was fraudulently issued and the structure is unsound to drill a portal, which is located directly underneath sacred land to the native people of this region, who have lived here longer than the 140 years of Rio Tinto’s existence…
Over 10,000 citizens oppose this mine, including hundreds of health professionals and over 100 faith leaders and support is continuing to mount. Yours is a very expensive and risky investment, and we are a very expensive, and growing opposition dedicated to protecting our health and environment. We will not stop pursuing you. We are not going to stop suing you until you have left our community.
U.S. Geological Survey Agrees to Water Quality Study
U.S.G.S. will begin a four-year water quality study of the Yellow Dog and Salmon Trout rivers watersheds at the request of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. “Surface water and groundwater associated with these local drainage systems support many ecologically diverse habitats,” said KBIC Tribal Chairman Warren Swartz. The tribe is concerned that mining activity “may diminish the inherent value of the Community’s 1842 Treaty rights and put the health and welfare of the public in jeopardy for generations to come.”
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary