G-Tac Bulk Sampling and Williams' Spanish Crime

Photo: Cobre Las Cruces copper mine, owned by Canada-based First Quantum Minerals, in 2008 after its walls collapsed. The mine was under the direction of now-GTac president Bill Williams, who ignored government reports that the walls were unstable. (Credit: Ecologistas en Acción)Photo: Cobre Las Cruces copper mine, owned by Canada-based First Quantum Minerals, in 2008 after its walls collapsed. The mine was under the direction of now-GTac president Bill Williams, who ignored government reports that the walls were unstable. (Credit: Ecologistas en Acción)

On November 25, Gogebic Taconite submitted a new bulk sampling plan to the Wisconsin DNR. If the DNR approves this plan, it will be the go-ahead for G-Tac to start blasting the asbestos-filled rock in the Penokee Hills. Among other gems, the plan contains the statement that "no groundwater has been identified at the bulk sample sites" (in the very moist Penokee Hills). 

Gogebic Taconite's claims that they can mine the Penokee Hills safely is an insult to the intelligence of Wisconsinites. While many DNR employees are competent and professional, the company is likely to collude with the agency's politically-appointed heads to force the plan to be approved quickly, possibly before the public has a chance to respond.

 
In the mean time, this article from the AP landed in newspapers around the country this weekend, revealing that G-Tac's president, Bill Williams, is implicated in environmental crimes along with two other former executives of the Cobre Las Cruces mine in Spain. Unfortunately, the AP piece plays up Williams' side of the story (a la "the suspect says he didn't do it") and obfuscates the fact that Williams may stand trial in Spain for dumping arsenic-laced wastewater into the local aquifer. Williams also ignored government reports that the slope of the mine wall was too steep, resulting in the collapse of the mine walls in 2008, according to Ecologists In Action, the environmental group in Spain that took the company to court. Williams has previously held up the CLC mine as an example of the tailings storage procedures planned for the Penokee Mine.
 
Under Wisconsin law, a mining company can be denied a permit if their executive is convicted of a crime in the United States. Environmental crimes in other countries should count too, since they indicate how the company is likely to behave here.

Take Action:

NOW is the time to write a letter to the editor of your local paper and to DNR officials telling them to reject G-Tac's bulk sampling plan. The company is required to receive a water quality permit; given the quantity of asbestos-like grunerite in the area, it is important to urge the DNR to require an air quality permit as well. If you are able to review the plan and send technical comments to the DNR, e-mail them to DNRWAMINING-GOGEBICTACONITE@Wisconsin.gov, and please cc journalist Rebecca Kemble, rebecca@renaissanceresourcesllc.com. If you don't have the time or aren't technically inclined, a letter from the heart is powerful, and a massive public outcry is the best weapon we have to defeat this devastating mine.
 
Please write to the DNR and your local papers to tell them that an environmental criminal should not be trusted with Wisconsin's precious natural resources.