Outrageous bill to block public access from G-Tac mine site

A bill that would block public access to the land in the Penokee Hills where Gogebic Taconite wants to build an open-pit iron mine was passed by the state Senate last week and is expected to move through the Assembly soon (Call your Representative now!). Introduced in August, SB 278 has been roundly condemned by environmentalists, Native Americans, hunters, and tax fairness advocates as another giveaway to G-Tac by their bought-and-paid-for elected officials.

The company wants to prevent concerned citizens from observing their operations or doing any independent science to gather information on the potential environmental impacts of the 4-1/2 mile long, 1,000 foot deep open pit mine. Last month, an independent team of scientists found abundant amounts of asbestos-like grunerite at G-Tac's proposed bulk sampling sites, where they may blast hundreds of tons of rock out of the ground. In August, the company sent a letter to the Bad River Band of Ojibwe threatening to prosecute any independent scientists for trespassing who came on to the land to delineate wetlands at the site.

The bill grants special privileges to the out-of-state owners of the mine site not enjoyed by any other landowner in the state. It permits them to close land currently open to the public under Wisconsin's Managed Forest Law without paying a tax penalty of almost a million dollars they would otherwise owe. It would bar the public from anywhere within 600 feet of an access road or bulk sampling site (see map below). The company wants to block concerned citizens from observing their operations and stop independent scientists from collecting data that could demonstrate the potential impacts of the proposed mine. Last month, a team of independent scientists found abundant amounts of asbestos-like grunerite in locations where G-Tac would blast hundreds of tons of rock out of the ground. In August, the company sent a letter to the Bad River Band of Ojibwe threatening to prosecute for trespassing any independent scientists seeking to delineate wetlands on the site. The company is currently engaged in a staring contest with the DNR over their application for a bulk sampling permit. G-Tac claims the DNR is being too slow in granting a permit for the "mini-mining" required to calibrate the crushing equipment they would build, but the agency says the company hasn't yet given them information on how they would prevent dangerous air pollution from blasting in grunerite-laden areas and potential acid runoff from the exposure of pyrite (a sulfide mineral) in the rock.

Meanwhile, the LCO Harvest and Education Learning Project camp near the mine site is battoning down the hatches for winter, and needs your help with supplies! A fundraiser for winterizing the camp will be held on November 12 on the Oneida Reservation near Green Bay, and you can donate to the effort from anywhere in the state here.

 

Map of areas closed to the public by SB 278 (courtesy of Dave Blouin, Sierra Club)