Environment | National

Blog: Wisconsin tribes united in battle against huge iron mine

Urban Milwaukee reports on the controversial mine opposed by the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians and other tribes in Wisconsin:
The water-rich Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin are two parallel ridges that rise 1,200 feet above nearby Lake Superior in a scenically spectacular region. Over 200 inches of snow falls on the Penokees each year, providing plentiful clean water for the Penokee aquifer, the waterfalls in Copper Falls State Park and Lake Superior. The surface and groundwater that flows off the Penokee Hills feeds several major rivers (the Bad, Marengo, Montreal, and Brunsweiler) and provides drinking water for the city of Ashland and nearby towns. The water also feeds the Kakagon/ Bad River Sloughs where the Bad River Ojibwe Tribe maintains the largest natural wild rice bed in the Great Lakes basin. Forty percent of all the wetlands on the Great Lakes are on the Bad River Reservation. This wetland complex has been called “Wisconsin’s Everglades.”

Now imagine a mountaintop removal operation, which blasts the top off the Penokee Hills to extract a low-grade iron ore deposit hundreds of feet below. This would create the largest open pit iron mine in the world, some 4 miles long by l.5 miles wide and 1000 feet deep. Over a billion tons of waste rock and tailings created during the projected 35-year life of the mine would be dumped at the headwaters of the Bad River watershed where it could leach toxic metals into the largest undeveloped wetland complex in the upper Great Lakes. Seventy-one miles of rivers and intermittent streams flow through the proposed mining area, emptying into the Bad River and then into Lake Superior.

This is the scenario envisioned by Gogebic Taconite, part of the Cline Group, run by coal magnate Christopher Cline, who owns large coal reserves in Illinois and West Virginia. Cline has been cited 53 times over the past three years for violating water quality standards at his Illinois coal mines. United against this proposal, and in defense of the water, is an alliance of Indian tribes, environmental and conservation groups and local communities downstream from this massive mine. They agree with the vision statement of the Lake Superior Binational Forum: “Water is life. The quality of water determines the quality of life.”

Get the Story:
The Fight Against Wisconsin’s Iron Mine (Urban Milwaukee 4/16)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Wisconsin must work to 'mend fences' with tribes (03/27)
Opinion: Wisconsin politicians should pay attention to tribes (03/20)
Mary Pember: Ojibwe women vow to protect lands from mining (03/13)
Opinion: Treaties support tribes in Wisconsin mining debacle (03/08)
Wisconsin Senate approves mining bill despite tribal protests (02/28)

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