Tribal Leaders Speak Out Against Mine in Wausau, WI 01.10.13

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A crowd of residents listen to Mike Wiggins, the Bad River Tribal chairman, make his presentation Thursday night at the Labor Temple in Wausau about the tribe's opposition to the proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin. / T'xer Zhon Kha/Daily Herald Media
Written by
Jeff Starck

Mike Wiggins, the Bad River tribal chairman, delivers a presentation Thursday at the Labor Temple in Wausau about the tribe's opposition to the proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin. / T'xer Zhon Kha/Daily Herald Media

Members of Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes urged about 75 people Thursday night at the Labor Temple in Wausau to take action to stop a proposed iron mine after they described how iron mining would irreversibly damage the waterways of northern Wisconsin.

Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins, one of the most outspoken critics of the Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine, told people to read and study about the mining process, and learn how it will harm the health of nearby residents and poison the water.

Gogebic Taconite planned to open a huge iron ore mine in Iron and Ashland counties that would create 700 jobs, but it pulled its plans last year after the Legislature could not agree on a way to streamline the permitting process.

The Bad River tribe vehemently opposed the mining legislation introduced last year. Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said this week that he will introduce new legislation by next week.

Wiggins said the legislation last year did not eliminate the threat of sulfide and mercury, chemicals that are a byproduct or used in the mining process that could poison the 23 creeks, rivers and streams that pass through the Penokee hills and onto tribal lands in the Lake Superior basin.

“AB 426 is viewed by us as an imminent threat for us to survive into the future,” Wiggins said.

Marvin DeFoe, a council member for the Red Cliff Tribe near Bayfield, shared stories of swimming in Lake Superior and spending countless hours in the woods. Iron ore mining is a threat to all Wisconsin residents, he said.

“Pollution has no bias,” DeFoe said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Indian, Red Cliff, Bad River, or you live here or there … . It will affect us all.”

The audience appeared supportive of Wiggins’ efforts and urged him to continue the fight. Joan and Wayne Schneider of Schofield had not followed the issue closely and attended the meeting to learn more. The couple said they now are ready to call their legislators and urge them to say no to the mining legislation.

George Schreffler, 40, of Schofield said he was upset that legislators would want a mine that damages the ecosystem. Schreffler’s mother, Marilyn Schreffler, 67, of Weston agreed and said she is ready to join other anti-mining advocates to take action.

“If they ask me to protest, I’ll go in front of (U.S. Rep. Sean) Duffy’s office,” Marilyn Schreffler said.