*Reality Check; G-TAC Responds to DNR’s Bulk-Sampling & Intent to Mine Inquiries*
*Where are the Legal repercussions for G-TAC?*
*Botanical Species of Special Concern*
*Unemployment Skyrockets in Hibbing MN, Home of World’s Largest Iron-Ore Mine*

As of July.28th, 2013, just days before the Iron County Board Meeting to address the prospect of seeking  “criminal and civil charges” against LCO’s Harvest Camp, Gogebic Taconite (G-TAC) responded  to the DNR’s inquiries to G-TAC’s submitted Bulk Sample and Intent to Mine Plan. G-TAC initially submitted this application June.17th, 2013, that you can find at the following web address, in conjunction with ALL of the required information and applications G-TAC submits to the DNR (thus far): http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Mines/Gogebic.html

One of the questions G-TAC was required to respond to, was detailing more information of the ‘kind of explosives’ they planned to use in the bulk sampling process. Bulk sampling is essentially small-scale mining, blowing-tops off of the Penokee Range. G-TAC replied in their response that at some sites, they may be able to ‘get away’ with excavating previously ‘sampled’ sites without means of explosives, but it is likely that they will still utilize this method, as their application to bulk-sample with ‘permitted’ use of explosives STILL stands. G-TAC says they want it to be an available option if explosives are needed to retrieve more ‘sample material’ (that G-TAC deems necessary). With the continued rhetoric from many opposing groups that known sulfides and pyrites in the soil will become exposed to oxygen and water during this process, creating sulfuric acid run-off irreparably damaging the drinking water, one wonders if jobs over public health (i.e. avoiding various potential cancers caused by taconite mining and avoiding potentially killing staple food crops such as wild rice (mother nature’s natural heavy metal filters, etc.)) is worth it.

In conjunction, the ONLY reason the Penokee Mine is POSSIBLE is because G-TAC  helped author Wisconsin’s new mining legislation AB/SB1. Bills AB/SB1 ended Wisconsin’s long moratorium on dangerous metallic and ferrous mining this past March. 2013 (in an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel dated March. 11th, 2013, it was stated that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed these bills; it was also stated in this article, ” Democrats and environmentalists said the changes have the potential to cause environmental harm – especially to streams, wetlands and groundwater – from the removal of millions of tons of rock. They also say Republicans have oversold the economic benefits of a project that could be built because of the legislation.”). A Wisconsin Government website (http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/related/proposals/sb1/_60?down=1) also states, “This bill requires DNR to deny an application for an iron mining permit under
the same standards for unsuitability as under current law, except that
archaeological areas and areas designated by DNR as being unique or unsuitable for
surface mining are not considered for the purposes of determining unsuitability. ”

As one can unfortunately see, this low-grade iron-ore mine is totally and ridiculously legal; it is now totally legal to eventually blast a 22-mile hole in the earth (upon it’s completion), the world’s largest open-pit taconite mine, in northern Wisconsin. This will potentially poison many people’s ground water, including the largest source of surface freshwater, Lake Superior. Lake Superior is also connected to the Kakagon Sloughs, comprising approximately 40% of Lake Superior’s wetlands of international importance (please see http://www.badriver-nsn.gov/index.php/tribal-news/200-kakagon-and-bad-river-sloughs-recognized-as-a-wetland-of-international-importance). This includes water directly flowing through the Bad River Reservation (threatening a land-base that their traditional culture is derived from).

While we are distracted and worried about the future of the Harvest Camp (as Treaty Rights are under attack), Iron County has stated on their website the plans to initially and basically clear-cut 99 acres of forest within the Penokee Range. There is no written and immediate connection to the proposed, state-supported Penokee Mine project, yet it is happening at this critical juncture for the Harvest Camp, and diverting many eyes and attentions away from the Penokee hills… Clear-cutting is necessary for the bulk-sampling to begin, and that needs to be remembered; there is no completely non-invasive and non-destructive way to bulk sample.

In response to some of Iron County’s and Tom Tiffany’s remarks pertaining to LCO Harvest Camp, accusing people of “squatting,” and, damaging the land, nothing that happens at the currently stationary Harvest Camp would ever be as devastating as that of a 22 mile open-pit taconite mine.

Furthermore, even if G-TAC avoids using explosives for most of their bulk sampling sites, their application to Bulk Sample AND Intent to Mine is still submitted as of June.17th; this has NOT changed. G-TAC still has EVERY intent to mine, thus blowing that 22 mile hole in the Penokees into a reality. Whether or not they sell-off the mineral rights in succession to bulk sampling is irrelevant, as bulk sampling is still destructive small-scale mining. G-TAC has already SUCCESSFULLY test-drilled in the hills, causing excess waste water run-off, and plans to keep pushing forward as quickly as possible. We must remember that this is the first mine proposal under the NEW legislation, thus there is no other similar project to compare it to within our state. No precedent has currently been set, this will be the precedent. If G-TAC is approved to mine in largely pristine northern Wisconsin, in the sacred hills of the Penokees, just imagine the future mining projects they have in mind…

It is up to us to wake-up, open our eyes, and hold G-TAC accountable. We need to come together to stop this mine, and help find alternative jobs for folks looking for them, i.e. in Hurley, WI. One should perhaps consider endeavors into Maple Syrup? People could tap trees (as the Penokees are covered in sugar maples) sell delicious maple syrup for potentially up to $60.00 a gallon (according to eBay) and subsequently NOT chop down a single tree, thus employing people for a lifetime! Why not?

As far as preservation and concerns of the natural world go, many visitors and biologists who’ve visited the Penokees have already found some botanical species of special concern, including that of (Taxus canadensis) canada yew. Anyone walking along the beautiful Tyler Forks River can observe these gems, as well as notice if they disappear. Sadly, even if one were to find federally-listed as endangered plants in this area, it would not “stop” the mine… So much for environmental protections.

In addition to protecting the hills and the waters for all, many are concerned about unemployment. Let’s consider Hibbing, Minnesota. Hibbing has what they so fondly refer to on their city website as, “The Grand Canyon of the North – World’s Largest Open Pit Iron Ore Mine, and the Iron Capital of the World.”  (http://www.hibbing.mn.us/). Please note that their unemployment rate sky rocketted from 5.2% in the year 2000, to 8.9% in 2010 according to this website: http://www.areavibes.com/hibbing-mn/employment?
What does that tell the people of Hurley WI?

Ultimately, G-TAC is a subsidiary of Cline, a West-Virginia based corporation that has a history of neglecting the environment. Cline’s mountain-top removal coal mines in Appalachia and mines in southern Illinois, have received multiple fines for polluting. According to sourcewatch.org (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Chris_Cline),

“Chris Cline is the majority owner of the private firm Foresight Reserves, LP, which owns or controls more than three billion tons of coal reserves in the Illinois and Northern Appalachian coal basins.Cline also owns The Cline Group, a parent company to Hillsboro Energy and Gogebic Taconite. In his online biography, Cline describes himself, “[Cline] has developed and operated over 25 coal mining, processing and transportation facilities in the Appalachian Region and the Illinois Basin, including some of the most productive long wall mining operations in the country. Today, Mr. Cline controls more than three billion tons of coal reserves in Illinois and Central Appalachia.

As of March 2013, Clines net worth is listed at $1.2 billion.”

After an Ashland County Board approved, “…a pair of mining-related ordinances that County Board Chairman Pete Russo said would help serve to protect Ashland County taxpayers from infrastructure costs related to iron mining activities in the county related to the development of a Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) iron mine in Ashland and Iron counties,” (courtesy of: http://www.ashlandwi.com/news/article_d58f5120-da33-11e2-9d70-001a4bcf887a.html) G-TAC President Bill Williams snatched a camera-phone from tribal member Joe Bates. This caused doctor-documented damage to Joe’s arm, resulting in zero legal repercussions for G-TAC. G-TAC also authorized unlicensed armed guards to patrol and “secure” the drill sites in the Penokee Hills illegally, also resulting in zero legal charges against G-TAC. Ex-Iron County District Attorney Anthony Stella maintains this is punishable by felony, yet no charges ensue for G-TAC who appears to be “above the law” (if that is their chosen route of mine completion). How far and fast will they go to build this mine if G-TAC is ‘above the law’?

Mine opponents who wish to protect the waters for the future generations we’ve borrowed this earth from must keep these things in mind as we push forward to coalesce to stop this horrendous state-approved mine. We are only given so many options when this kind of  trickle-down governmental fascism from our Governor Scott Walker has a large hand in the expedience of this mine project’s development. It should also be remembered that amongst other tactics and approaches, Treaty Rights to hunt fish and gather that indigenous people are practicing in northern Wisconsin, (i.e. LCO Harvest Camp) should be seen as important potential safeguards to the preservation of land, and perhaps is also why they are under fire by those who wish to destroy the Penokees.