Copper and Iron or Wild Rice and Water?
New mining projects threaten the water, land, wild rice and people of the Great Lakes. Over the past three hundred years, people have spoken out to protect this land and water…
Now is your chance.
Gogebic Mine – Penokee Mountains, Wisconsin:
Representing up to 20% of known iron deposits in the US, around 1-2 billion tons of ore, coal mining giant the Cline Group from Florida has options on 22,5000 acrse of mineral rights from Anderson, MI to just west of Mellen, WI. The deposit is buried 350 feet from the surface, and is 20% iron, in the form of magnetite, to be extracted with high-powered magnets. The mine would stretch in segments over 21 miles, descend 600 to 900 feet and be 1200 feet wide. Copper and nickel are also likely to exist, and with them the risks of sulfide mining.
The area is at the headwaters of the Bad River, the largest and most pristine Wisconsin watershed draining into Lake Superior. This is home to 72 species of rare plants and animals and the Anishinaabeg people of Bad River. Some of the best manoomin, wild rice, in the world comes from the Kakogan Sloughs at Bad River. As well, the economies of lakeside communities such as Bayfield, Washburn, and Ashland could be negatively impacted, as contaminants from mining could easily reach Lake Superior.
The company worked hard last year at the Wisconsin legislature to secure passage of an Iron Mining Law, intending to circumvent Wisconsin’s strong environmental laws.
“Hydrological fluctuations in a very sensitive area – the Sloughs at Bad River and the Bay – will have huge and catastrophic repercussions for my tribe, for my people. Don’t tell me my people aren’t going to die out from this…” ~ Mike Wiggins Jr., Tribal Chairman of the Bad River Tribe.
Other mines are proposed or moving ahead in the region:
Eagle Rock, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, awaits its scheduled end like a convict on death row. Rio Tinto Zinc, a UK-based mining company, plans to demolish Eagle Rock for the sake of mining primarily nickel and copper, but also gold and other precious metals. Eagle Rock is sacred to the Anishinaabe. It has been a seven year battle for the sacred site, marked by arrests and legal actions.
In Minnesota, recent moves at the state legislature and regulatory agencies will open up a 40 year old standard which protects water quality in wild rice beds. The Primary reason: new mines are proposed for the Boundary Waters. These include U.S. Steel’s proposed Minntac mine expansion, the Franconia project, and Polymet Mines, all to impact the Boundary Waters and the Lake Superior Watershed.
The mix of air, water and bacteria of mining means the sulfur will morph into sulfuric acid. This will change the pH of the water system, and liberate heavy metals out of the rock formation. Mining proponents have spent over $20 million. Turns out, that so far, money can’t buy you a clean mine, and more toxins in Lake Superior is bad for wild rice, fish, or a healthy ecosystem. The state regulatory agencies are now considering a change in water quality standards.
The People Fight Back – for the Land, Water, Manoomin and Future Generations:
“Sometimes it seems like people are not interested in sticking around for another thousand years….” ~Mike Wiggins, Tribal Chair at Bad River.
The Ojibwe, and many others, actually may want to continue living here, and for the past forty years, have mounted some pretty significant opposition to mining in Anishinaabe Akiing – the Great Lakes Region.
On October 28, 2003, the 28-year fight to stop the proposed Crandon mine in northeastern Wisconsin was won. And, the Forest County Potowatami and Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwe actually ended up owning and controlling the mine site itself. The tribes paid $16.5 million for the 5,000-acre mine site. The tribes, and many allied farmers and concerned citizens had successfully fought off five major mining corporations in the world. Exxon, and BHP Billiton, now the largest mining corporation in the world. International mining journals in Britain and Canada complained and in 2003, the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute, gave Wisconsin the lowest “Investment Attractiveness Index” of any political unit in the entire world, with a score of 13 out of a possible 10.
White Pine Mine:
The White Pine Copper Mine, was the largest employer in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It closed down in 1995 right after the company paid a $4.3 million penalty for violating the Clean Air Act. About 1,000 workers lost their jobs. The company promised, but failed to install a $200 million state of the art smelting facility.
Instead, the parent company, injecting 550 million gallons of acid into the underground tunnels only five miles from Lake Superior. In 1996, Bad River Ogitchida blockaded trains supplying sulphuric acid to the White Pine solution mining project. The blockade drew public attention to the larger ecological threat to Lake Superior and hastened the closing of the White Pine copper mine.
Walter Bressette put his body on the tracks to stop White Pine Mine trains.
We are scraping the bottom of the earth for lower and lower grade ores, and opening up mines in places which should not be mined. We have a wasteful materials economy. American steel consumption per-capita is about three times that of Chinese or ten times that of Indian steel consumption, but the new markets are largely China. One might question why we would destroy the Great Lakes region for steel mills in China.
By the 1990s, Americans discarded seven million tons of cans – enough to make 316,000 Boeing 737s a fleet twenty five times the size of the world’s airline fleets combined. Each American consumes 350 aluminum cans per year.
Mining companies have underestimated the clean up costs of most mines by up to $2 billion. And many mining operations are still not clean. The water contaminated by the mining companies will be contaminated well into the future, and our region, the Great Lakes, has the largest supply of freshwater in the world.
“Our traditional laws lead us to understand that economic development cannot subsist on a deteriorating resource base. The environment cannot be maintained and protected when growth does not account for the cost of environmental and cultural destruction…” ~ Indigenous Environmental Network
“…The right of citizens of the US to enjoy and use air, water, sunlight and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired nor shall such use impair their availability for use by the future generations…” ~Seventh Generation Amendment
For more information or support contact Honor the Earth at Earth@HonorEarth.Org or Church of the Seventh Fire of Lake Superior, PO Box 59, Iron Belt, WI 54536