Written by and reprinted here with the permission of:

Jack Solbrig

                This story is regarding a 76 year old man, Bob Gollubske and his family whose house, barn, and several other structures had all severe damage to the foundations, walls, and windows from brisance of a local blasting operation for black top material, where no permit was ever issued to the Mathey Paving Corporation by the state. This is just the tip of the iceberg since heavy metal poisoning of his water has affected him and his family, children and grand children, and all the aquatic life in his seven spring fed ponds died. His livestock produce stillborn fetuses and his chicken hatch at a 10% rate instead of his normal rate of 95%. Fissures on top of his land two feet wide are evident where the brisance of continued explosions by the Massey operation have bounced off the granite shelf his farm sits on and meet in opposite directions. His family members have experienced numerous seizures, swollen and blackened limbs, and general exhaustion on a daily basis. His current situation is unfortunately exemplar of what will happen to the very close general area where the Penokees/Bad River Watershed exists, where ancient wild rice fields exist on the Bad River Indian Reservation, their fish hatchery which stock many lakes and streams, and worst of all Lake Superior (known as Gitchi Gummi by the Indians) where the Bad River empties.

Upon complaining to the local Iron County district officials, he was told what he heard was firecrackers. He insisted that it came from the illegal blasting operation approximately one mile away from his farm. Frustrated with the firecracker explanation, Gollubske pursued an explanation from both the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Natural Resources.  Not getting anywhere, Gollubske then decided to call the FBI and wanted them to come out to his farm and see the damage. Frustrated beyond belief, Gollubske asked how would you like it if I blew up explosives and damaged the foundation at the courthouse. He was arrested four days later by a swarm of police on the road on his way into town. He was charged with terrorism and held in solitary confinement for four days until his family could come up with $10,000.00 bond. Mr. Gollubske, known as Barrel Bob, now faces ten years in prison on terrorism charges.

The Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker has just got the laws changed to allow mining for the first time in 45 years in the state. G-Tac (Gogebic Taconite), the mining corporation, plan to remove ¾ of a mile of earth that has been sequestered for millions of years to reach and remove what is considered 25% of the iron deposit in the United States. The removal of the sequestered earth contain the same heavy metal that the Gollubske Family are now experiencing. When the earth is uncovered, iron sulfide is exposed to air or dissolved oxygen in water, the sulfide oxidizes to sulfate, which then turns to sulfuric acid, a highly corrosive chemical. So, when it rains or when any water mixes with the sulfur, it becomes sulfuric acid, which then has a chemical reaction with all the heavy metal that are present in the sequestered earth. It is also one of the primary constituents in acid rain and is toxic to most living organisms, containing a ph as low as 3.6, which is about 1000 times more acidic than battery acid, leaching toxic materials such as lead, arsenic, asbestos, copper, mercury, magnesium, cadmium, zinc, arsenic, and sulfates and liberating them into both the air, and of course, the surface and ground water when these elements are present. Once this occurs, it is irreversible and has a very long hazard-life, lasting thousands of years. Roman-era mines are still producing acid mine drainage. G-Tac claim there will be no environmental damage since they claim they will not use any chemicals in their operation and after all the sequestered earth is removed, they plan to use magnets to remove iron ore. They have not addressed the certain chemical reactions described above that will occur when the sequestered earth is exposed to the air and rain. The sequestered earth has locked away these potentially toxic ores and elements from causing harm. They are isolated from the atmosphere and surface waters by their depth, providing relatively little surface area for them to react with water and oxygen. Extracting these ores make them chemically available for the acid-forming reactions described here.

The Gollubske farm is exemplar of the whole scale damage that will occur unless G-Tac is stopped from any further action.  They have already drilled seven deep holes determining the exact depth of the iron ore.  They apparently expect resistance from what they know will devastate the area, especially to the Bad River watershed and the Bad River Indian Reservation and Lake Superior. When the drilling started, G-Tac hired heavily armed, masked commando security force to protect the “corporations property.” These guards were never licensed by the state of Wisconsin. “Horrifying and appalling” was common in third world countries, these masked soldiers carry military style assault weapons like mercenaries in a time of war. They patrol in our state forests as campers, hikers and the Indians who at this time of year set up harvest camps traditionally gathering the wild fruits of Mother Nature guaranteed by their treaty rights as an autonomous nation. Iron county is now attempting to remove the Indians from their summer harvest camp for not obtaining a permit. A permit was required and never obtained by the Mathey black top operation that destroyed the Gollubske farm, the family, the wild life, and all their animals. This is what the entire area can expect if the removal of the sequestered earth that is 1 mile wide, 4 miles long and at least ¾ mile deep (1st phase), yet to be determined by G-Tac’s 7 (exploratory) drill holes. It is unknown what G-Tac is doing with the sequestered earth they are removing from the drilled holes.

Inhospitable to aquatic life, these high levels of acidity reduce the ability of streams to buffer against chemical changes, and have sterilized large portions of nearby creeks where this mining occurs, coating the bottom of the streams with a distinctive orange/red color, commonly referred to as “yellow boy,” smothering life on the river bed. A solid veneer of chemical precipitants resembling brightly colored chocolate “hard sauce” or paint coats the stream beds, for an unknown number of years, perhaps for the entire future of the regions they have affected.  Also the crushing with which ore is extracted today dwarfs that of the ancient Roman mines causing severe environmental and human harm for many generations to come. We can’t leave this legacy for future generations to deal with, like the future generations that the Gollubske family now face. G-Tac must be stopped now. G-Tac will impair the terrestrial and aquatic organisms in our undisturbed natural systems of the Penokees that native people have shown us “new comers” how to maintain. The gills of the fish they raise will suffer impaired respiration from chronic and acute toxicity as they are exposed indirectly to metals, digestion of contaminated sediments and food they eat at the bottom of the stream beds covered with hydroxide, diminishing availability of clean gravel used for spawning and reducing micro invertebrates for fish food.

                We are a river flowing, and so far we are a living river flowing. We must keep it this way forever. Our legacy we leave for generations to come cannot include the likes of G-Tac and their deadly offspring – “yellow boy.” The Gollubske’s tragedy cannot be ignored.

*Bob Gollubske is being arraigned this Thursday, Sept. 26th, 2013. There will be a demonstration to support him at 12:30 p.m. outside the Iron County Courthouse on Taconite St., and his court appearance will follow at 1:30 p.m.; let’s pack the court!*