Don’t let iron mine pollute Wisconsin’s water 07/29/2011

This is a copy of an op-ed piece that was submitted to the Cap Times.
It was pubished on their web site. ( This article
was written by Ay Mondloch and me. (Without Amy's help it still would
be a work in progress.)

Events are moving quickly to open a strip mine in northern Wisconsin’s
Iron and Ashland counties. The Gogebic Taconite company is working
hard to push its mining agenda forward, with a second attempt to
rewrite the state’s mining laws expected to come soon from the
governor’s office.
GTac officials began by leading us to believe they would follow
Wisconsin’s mining regulations and laws. Their proposal to strip mine
in the Bad River watershed raised concerns and questions as to how
they would protect this pristine watershed. These issues were not
addressed. Instead GTac responded by trying to rewrite Wisconsin’s
mining laws (see for more information) and
investing dollars to convince us that these rewrites constituted a
“jobs for generations” bill. Rather than call this a strip mine, it
was deemed a “multigenerational mine.”
As the details of this bill began to leak out, legislators became
nervous and the bill was tossed in the dustbin.
GTac officials reacted by announcing they are holding off on the $1.5
billion project and won’t continue exploration until the mining laws
are changed to their specifications, which would allow mining
companies unlimited access to water and freedom to place mining wastes
dangerously close to streams and wetlands. This is too much to bear.
Wisconsin is not for sale. While GTac attempts to portray this as a
“jobs for generations” mine, the jobs will be temporary. The
destruction to the area would be permanent. And it has yet to be shown
how many workers in other fields would be displaced by the mine.
We can expect additional slogans while water quality is ignored. GTac
is becoming its own worst enemy as concerns for protecting the Bad
River watershed from runoff, chemicals, dust, and debris produced by
open pit mining are continually ignored.
In the meantime we are offered an audacious suggestion to create a
bipartisan committee to facilitate a public discussion about how
mining permits should be reviewed. The issue is not how permits should
be reviewed; the issue is dismantling the current laws to give mining
companies an open door to plunder Wisconsin’s resources. This appears
to be another attempt to sanitize the debate and legitimize efforts to
rewrite mining laws to meet the needs of the industry.
As we await the new legislation from a governor who wants Wisconsin to
be open for business, we should think about the need for laws that
provide both sensible governance and prosperity for the future. To
accomplish that, we urge the Legislature to consider adopting the
Seventh Generation Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United
States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife and other renewable
resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not
be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use
of future generations.”
Amy S. Mondloch of Madison and Frank Koehn of Ashland are members of
Save the Water’s Edge.