Author Topic: Mining attempts a controversial comeback in Wisconsin  (Read 357 times)

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Offline flowers

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Mining attempts a controversial comeback in Wisconsin
« on: August 12, 2013, 03:52:36 PM »
Paramilitary armed guards, death threats, standoffs. It’s not what you might expect amid the peaceful greenery of northern Wisconsin, but it’s that greenery, and what lies below, that has led to an intense battle over land, water and jobs.

It all began when a company called Gogebic Taconite, or G-Tac, got permission to test the soil in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills area for minerals, including iron ore. The company eventually wants to carve a 4-mile open pit mine through the heavily wooded area.

G-Tac has leased thousands of acres of land in Wisconsin’s Iron County, an area which is popular with hikers in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. Terms of the lease still allow the public to access the area.

Many of those who live in the economically depressed towns nearby said they support the company’s efforts and look forward to the potential for much-needed jobs and growth in the region. Dozens of signs are posted on lawns in the small city of Hurley with messages like “Mines mean jobs” and “Mining is our History” and “Say yes to mining.”

But opponents worry mining activities will poison the water supply and ruin the wetlands. And Native Americans in the area claim the mining violates their treaty rights because it would interfere with hunting and fishing.

“We certainly don't need a mine,” argued Frank Koehn, who runs the website

“All that does is produce the same mess we have now, but when they're done we've got piles of dust, poisoned streams; some streams will be obliterated, the ground water will no longer be protected,”  he said.

Confrontations between the two sides have been violent and dramatic. Once G-Tac workers went out and began doing the testing, at least a dozen protesters wearing bandanas over their faces showed up ready for action.

The showdown, which is filled with yelling and expletives, was recorded and posted on YouTube. One protester can be seen wrestling with a woman over her camera.  That protester was later arrested and charged with a felony. Others face trespassing charges.

“These folks broke into our camp, they barricaded the roads so that law enforcement wouldn't be able to help us, they held the site for over a half hour, they attacked one of our workers, and they destroyed a bunch of our equipment, and they threatened our people with burning our homes down,” said G-Tac spokesman Bob Seitz.

Gogebic Taconite brought in armed guards to protect the property and its employees. Both sides claim their lives have been threatened.

Critics call the protesters “Eco terrorists.” Some environmentalists call them heroes, but the majority of opponents in the Penokee Hills area said they don’t support the anarchy of the activists who were caught on the YouTube video.

All this has happened, and yet so far G-Tac has only been doing exploratory drilling, and gathering samples to send to the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Army Corps of Engineers. If results show the process is safe, Gogebic Taconite will be allowed to go ahead with its plans to construct a massive iron ore mine.

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