To: Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Mary Williams
From: Bruce Lindgren, Herbster, Wisconsin
Regarding Mining Bills SB1 and AB1
I write in opposition to passage of these bills. What I write embraces a personal concern and does not represent the view of any organizations with which I am affiliated.
The Penokee Hills are a far too sensitive part of the Lake Superior ecosystem and not suited to mining now. My message is not – never! It is – Not Now! Future knowledge may make responsible mining possible. The critical message is this: Protect Our Water!
Our understanding of what would characterize responsible mining is immature at best; yet, proponents of mining are quick with high-handed hubris saying that they will be responsible. They, we, all of us don't know what responsible is! Proponents of mining need only a gullible legislature to destroy an ecosystem essential to health of Lake Superior. Current knowledge of ecosystem structure, function and stress is inadequate for many reasons beyond my ability to articulate. You, I will assert, can't articulate those reasons either. If you passionately think you can, you are, I fear, self-deluded and beyond any hope of rational persuasion otherwise. The complexity of ecosystems cannot be dismissed or minimized.
Without critical and fundamental knowledge of the Lake Superior ecosystem – out of profound respect for critical areas of ignorance – you have an ethical obligation to slow down, or much better, to block the subservient, lock-step march to pass this bill. Proceeding without firm knowledge as to how surface and ground water in the Lake Superior basin will be protected is irresponsible and unethical.
A flawed and incomplete economic impact study drives expectations statewide that an iron mine in the Penokee Hills will provide a wellspring of jobs to enrich Wisconsin. The late Walt Bresette said that; Water is more valuable than gold. Endangering the waters of the Lake Superior basin for temporary jobs and temporary industry is irresponsible and unethical. Representative Sean Duffy said in Ashland last year, no one would want to trade a few jobs for a risk to Lake Superior. This bill ignores that risk and is irresponsible and unethical.
I am United States Co-Chair of the Lake Superior Binational Forum, a member of the Northwestern Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board and a past-president and current officer of the Lake Superior Chapter of Wisconsin Innovation Network. I have extensive experience with economic development; work extending over a decade in Bayfield, Douglas and Ashland counties. I am deeply concerned for economic diversity and development as well as new job opportunity in our region. I am a biologist and biology educator. From this personal perspective, mining, under SB1 or AB1, is not a good answer for either the Northwest Wisconsin economy or the ecology of the Lake Superior basin.
Again, please note that I am speaking for myself in this statement and do not represent views of any organizations. What follows draws from my involvement with two organizations.
The Lake Superior Binational Forum (LSBF, Forum) makes recommendations only through a process that demands consensus. The rapid introduction and accelerated hearing schedule for SB1 and AB1 are inconsistent with time lines for development of a consensus response. I have, however attached a letter that was submitted on 8 June 2011 with reference to the LRB 2035 that contained concepts and language that is substantially similar to SB1 and AB1. This letter refers to the Lakewide Management Plan (LaMP) and the Zero Discharge Demonstration Project for Lake Superior. I urge you to consider carefully the implications of the LaMP and ZDDP as you vote on SB1/AB1. A Vision for Lake
Superior was adopted by the Forum in 1992. This Vision (copy attached) embraces economic development and economic diversity together with recognition of the importance of human communities, but begins with respect for the importance of water saying “Water is Life; and the Quality of Water Determines the Quality of Life.” The entire vision statement was adopted by consensus of LSBF members from all sectors – including mining, power and paper industries. I ask you to become Stewards of the Lake Superior ecosystem.
In our neighboring state of Minnesota, permitting of the Polymet mine and other non-ferrous mining is contentious. A recent proposal by Rep. Rick Nolan called for a quarter billion dollar investment to build knowledge for safe and responsible mining. Last year before G-TAC took its bat and ball and went whimpering to Michigan and Florida, WIN LS proposed a Center for Mining Innovation and Advanced Technology (CMIAT) to be located in Ashland, The proposal called for an investment of $25 million over ten years; perhaps way too little by a factor of ten. A central and critical consideration is to establish science-based, neutral third party monitoring. Combined with sound science and innovative engineering, monitoring must be established to assure protection and responsible practices. Michigan and Minnesota are providing leadership. Lack of similar consideration in Wisconsin is shameful. Wisconsin needs to be in the game to find solutions for environmental problems posed by mining in any form and certainly by the imposition of a large open-pit in the Penokee Hills. Any potential threats to water without known long-term consequences and remedy are unacceptable and should impose moral constraint on anyone whether a Florida investor, a potential mine worker in Hurley or Mellen, a manufacturer in Milwaukee, or a legislator in Madison. This is not about jobs; it is about knowledge. Knowledge – innovation, invention – will produce jobs and new sustainable industry.
Hubris borne of ignorance is more than shameful; it is abusive and insulting. Whether you are Christian, agnostic or atheist, there is a moral imperative to ask deep questions about whether this bill is right. Sitting at the center of a triangle of economics, ecology and social equity is a fractal called ethics. Between the extremes of capitalism, deep ecology and social welfare are questions that are ethical; Should we ... ? Is it right to ... ? “The economy,” said the late Gaylord Nelson, “is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.” Get the environmental values right and the economic value will emerge. Get the environmental values wrong and the economy will eventually collapse. My question to you is this: Are you asking the right questions?
A few additional thoughts:
A Gross Tonnage Tax must be part of any bill passed. Anything else is a witless, wooden-headed display of ignorance and much worse – subservience. Payment of a net proceeds tax will be postponed, perhaps beyond the life of the mine. If this is legislated, Wisconsin will have Tax Evasion that is legal.
The burden for infrastructure must be born by mining proponents. Wisconsin should avoid any appearance of another corporate subsidy. We can't afford it; mining proponents can foot the bill for roads, power lines, rail lines and ore docks.
Diversification of the economy is the ONLY way to justify any mining operations; and then, only when responsibility across many decades is crystal clear. Mining jobs are temporary on any time scale. Considerations that span generations, well beyond 200 years, must be fully exposed and must provide a moral foundation for the eventual and inevitable consequences of mining. Destruction of a vulnerable ecosystem is morally unacceptable. A few temporary jobs just don't count for much economically or ethically. Research and education will generate economic sustainability, environmental responsibility, and social stability.
There are alternatives to mining as a way to boost the economy of NW Wisconsin. Support for
research in NW Wisconsin is essential. Advanced technology with woods and waters rests on a renewable resource. Fully independent of extractive industry, emerging technologies in materials and energy embrace a much longer and more durable heritage than any mine that was ever developed, worked and closed. Lessons from the past, not mindless tradition, should enable our future to emerge unencumbered by a scar and a permanent legacy.
Eventually a Declaration on Responsible Mining will emerge. My hope is that the Wisconsin legislature and Governor will be leaders in a quest for responsible mining. The economic value of iron and perhaps other minerals in the Penokee Hills will not go away until it is permitted to go away. There is no rush needed. The mineral wealth in the Penokee Hills will remain and accumulate compound interest. Mineral shortages globally are inevitable. Mining is not sustainable. Some future day, I believe, responsible and environmentally safe mining will become possible. That day is not today. A corporate proponent of mining will wait until the global economy will support a strong profit. They will calculate potential profit on classical economics of projected supply and demand. Calculations of ecological economics are not simple because they must reflect the benefits of ecosystem services including biodiversity, productive land, healthy air and clean water. Wisconsin should wait on any permitting until we fully understand the impact and potential legacy of mining. Risk is acceptable for business. Risk is unacceptable and irresponsible if future generations are handed an empty hole and limited choices.
This bill only embraces short-sighted greed and should not be passed.