ACTION ALERT: Ashland County Zoning meeting seeks public to testify on sulfide mining

On Friday, March 8, 2019 at 9 AM the Ashland County Zoning committee will be meeting to move a new set of sulfide mining ordinances out of committee and on to the full board. Zoning Committee Chair Joe Rose Sr. is asking for the public to step up and testify in favor of the new ordinances. The meeting is being held in the Ashland County Board Room.

Tyler Forks, Penokee Hills, Wisconsin

Background: After Gogebic Taconite (GTac) was driven out of the state in 2015, the Wisconsin legislature, dominated by Republicans, overturned the decades-old “prove it first” Wisconsin sulfide mining law. The old law prevented companies that had a proven record of pollution from doing business in Wisconsin. After that law was overturned, the entire state became vulnerable to possible devastating environmental damages that would be caused by such a mine.

Sulfide mining focuses on copper, gold, silver and other precious metals. According to Save the Boundary Waters:

The sulfide-ore copper mining industry has a disastrous track record. A peer-reviewed report prepared by Earthworks studied fourteen sulfide-ore copper mines representing 89% of current U.S. copper production. Of those fourteen mines, all had experienced some sort of pipeline spill or other accidental release. Thirteen of the fourteen (92%) had experienced water collection and treatment failures that resulted in significant impacts to water quality. The tailings dam failure at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia in August 2014 shows the catastrophic potential for such failures (Earthworks 2012).

Read about the possible devastation of sulfide mining here. 

Please come to the Ashland County Board Room and speak up in defense of the water.

Yellow mine waste water from the Gold King Mine is seen in San Juan County, Colorado

Nothing Trumps Water: Why it must be Bernie or Bust

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is proving to be rip-tear-claw between old-school Democrats who still talk as if the US is a democracy (Hillary Clinton supporters), those who understand that the United States of America is now a corporate oligarchy (Bernie Sander’s people), and the Democratic National Committee and Wall Street, who appear hell bent on getting Clinton elected at all costs.

Bad River Watershed

The Bad River Watershed in the Penokee Hills on the shores of Lake Superior.

Many old-school Dems still can’t say the words “corporate fascism,” even the ones who watched the corporations, led by the Koch Brothers, take over Wisconsin in 2011 and begin draining the State of all its wealth. The crowning gem was to be the Penokee Hills and Lake Superior, the lavish watershed in the north that represents 20% of the last of the world’s fresh water. US Steel had rejected the low-grade iron ore here in the 1960s. But a billionaire coal mining kingpin from West Virginia named Chris Cline had his sights set on the Penokees for his first-ever iron ore venture.

Unknown to us (but not for lack of trying), lawyers for the mining company, Gogebic Taconite (GTac), were allowed to write a new ferrous mining bill. Headed by a man who we later learned was fleeing prosecution in Spain for ruining the water of 300,000 Spaniards, GTac had their lawyers write a bill that threw out every protection for the people, water, air, economy, and democracy. Despite overwhelming opposition from every corner of the state, the corporate abusers got their wish and the bill passed. GTac moved forward with their plans for their 22-mile mountaintop removal open-pit iron ore mine on the shores of Lake Superior.

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

Long story short, the good guys prevailed—this time. GTac finally gave up in February 2014—iron ore prices were dropping all around the world, Native Americans were exercising their Treaty Rights, and opposition to the mine was at 92%. After three years of lying about how pure the ore was and how safe their process would be, they now declared that mining the Penokees was not “feasible.”

What might have been the real nail in GTac’s coffin, however, were documents released from a second John Doe investigation that revealed illegal campaign coordination going on between Gov. Scott Walker’s office and GTac around a $700,000 campaign donation. The first John Doe sent six of Walker’s associates to jail for embezzlement, money laundering, child enticement, and staffers mixing state business with campaigning to get Walker, then a Milwaukee county executive, elected to governor. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, dominated by cronies of Walker and the Kochs, declined to hear the second case. Why should they? Several of them were heavy Walker donors. But three of the five attorneys fighting the case appealed, and JD II is now headed for SCOTUS.


Fast forward to the race for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, joined the Democratic Party and launched his people-powered campaign, taking most of his donations from individuals and firing up an otherwise lackluster Democrat party with a grassroots “revolution.” The lone Bernie “Super Pac,” National Nurses United, stated that they support Bernie because their mission aligns with his as they cover the front lines of US healthcare.

Sanders record on environmental protections is stellar, and earned him a 100% rating from the League of Conversation Voters in 2015, with a 95% rating for his lifetime career as an elected official.

While Clinton gets an 82% lifetime rating from the same group, her activities in the US and around the world in relation to corporate abusers is a staggering report that few in mainstream media are covering, and even fewer democratic supporters are willing to acknowledge.

According to Mother Jones, in 2009 Clinton traveled the world promoting fracking as Secretary of State. She appointed David Goldwyn as her special envoy for international energy affairs:

Goldwyn had a long history of promoting drilling overseas—both as a Department of Energy official under Bill Clinton and as a representative of the oil industry. From 2005 to 2009 he directed the US-Libya Business Association, an organization funded primarily by US oil companies—including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Marathon—clamoring to tap Libya’s abundant supply. Goldwyn lobbied Congress for pro-Libyan policies and even battled legislation that would have allowed families of the Lockerbie bombing victims to sue the Libyan government for its alleged role in the attack.  

October 16, 2013, Children in Pungesti blocking the access of the heavy machinery that arrived at the fracking site. Photo: Frack Off Romania

October 16, 2013, Children in Pungesti blocking the access of the heavy machinery that arrived at the fracking site. Photo: Frack Off Romania

The details of her international crusade were disturbing enough, but for me personally it was a nauseating moment to realize what Hillary Clinton was doing to my friends in Romania. While I was fighting off GTac, I was in contact via social media with Maria Olteanu and a group of Romanians who were going through a similar corporate takeover of their resources in Pungesti, a small, poor section of northeast Romania that is rich in fracking shale gas. Much like the Chippewa in northern Wisconsin and our Harvest Camp, Romanians were camping out and putting their bodies between their water and the fracking pumps that were sent into the area. Police were eventually called in to remove the protesters.

Hillary Clinton was personally responsible for this. This was not some distant foreign policy decision; this was the Secretary of State traveling to Romania and bringing Chevron and their money with her to push fracking on my friends there. In return, Chevron rewarded Hillary Clinton with hundreds of thousands of dollar for the Clinton Foundation, as well as bundling donations for her 2016 presidential run:

The two Clinton bundlers also were part of a much-criticized campaign by Chevron to manipulate Congress into inserting language into the Andean Trade Preferences Act that would require Ecuador to dismiss a longstanding lawsuit against the company for polluting the Amazon jungle. — Politico, November 16, 2009

But perhaps even more horrifying are her ties to the mining company that is responsible for the Brazilian mining disaster in November 2014. A dam burst at a BHP Billiton-owned iron ore mine in the Rio Doce region and 50 million tons of highly toxic mining waste were unleashed. Brazil is calling it the worst environmental disaster in its history.

The search for bodies and survivors was slow. Mudslides knocked out roads and cellular towers, covered houses, upturned cars, smothered wild and farm animals in their paths, cut off drinking water for a quarter-of-a-million people, and raised health and environmental concerns in cities more than 186 miles downstream.  — The Guardian, November 25, 2015

The government of Brazil is suing BHP Billiton for billions.

An aerial view of the Rio Doce (Doce River), which was flooded with mud after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst, at an area where the river joins the sea on the coast of Espirito Santo in Regencia Village, Brazil, November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

An aerial view of the Rio Doce (Doce River), which was flooded with toxic sludge after a dam owned by Vale SA and BHP Billiton Ltd burst, at an area where the river joins the sea on the coast of Espirito Santo in Regencia Village, Brazil, November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

BHP Billiton was part of a group of 13 major corporations that donated to the Clinton Foundation as they were lobbying the State Department while Clinton was Secretary of State. BHP wanted the US government to protect its mining interests in Gabon, Africa, where it was meeting fierce resistance by concerned Gabon residents. The iron ore deposit was situated within Gabon’s Ivindo National Park, a rainforest home to forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, and chimpanzees.

Clinton’s hands are also deep in the uranium mining that is now being foisted upon the southwest. The Havasupai Tribe, along with several environmental groups, have been fighting a Canadian mining company on a long-contested uranium mine with plans go forward near the Grand Canyon. Energy Fuels Inc, a Canadian mining company, is now suing for their right to mine.

In 2013, a group of Canadian mining industry execs donated millions to the Clinton Foundation. They were in the process of building and eventually selling off a corporation known as Uranium One to Russian interests, which gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Uranium One’s chairman donated $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation while they were lobbying for the deal under Clinton’s Sate Department. And despite an agreement with the Obama administration that she would disclose all donors, Clinton did not. After Reuters found the error, Clinton was made to re-file five years of tax returns on how they were reporting all their donations.

Energy Fuels Inc. mine just south of the Grand Canyon. Photo: Bruce Gordon/Ecoflight, via Center for Biological Diversity

Energy Fuels Inc. mine just south of the Grand Canyon. Photo: Bruce Gordon/Ecoflight, via Center for Biological Diversity

Uranium One eventually became Rosatom, the corporation now taking legal action against the US government in order to mine the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai and other groups are in the fight for their lives to protect themselves and their water, thanks in part to Clinton’s willingness to go along with the original deal. While no direct evidence of campaign coordination has been uncovered, it is nonetheless a disturbing situation which reveals the deep international corporate pockets Clinton relies on. Even without evidence of “pay-to-play,” it is clear that these multinational corporations support Clinton because she naturally believes in their cause.

While the list goes on of Clinton’s support of corporate domination, her shepherding the Trans Pacific Partnership is perhaps one of the most frightening aspects of her power. Up until it was clear the TPP might threaten her chances to win the White House, she called it the “gold standard” of trade deals. The TPP would allow, among other horrors, lawsuits from foreign corporations doing business in the US against our environmental laws. Say a Chinese corporation bought land in Wisconsin and wanted to open a 100,000 hog Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that stood to destroy the watershed of the community and people rose up to protect themselves. The TPP would allow the foreign corporation to sue the local unit of government for all of its potentially lost revenue and challenge any environmental laws that stood in the way of their profits.

Right now the United States is in a fight for its democratic soul and its clean water, both of which are being stolen by international corporations. Hillary Clinton is leading the charge, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and the Democrats who support her are aiding and abetting this corporate takeover of our government. The list of Democrats who support Clinton is staggering, and yet, few of any will acknowledge this dark and insidious aspect of her political ambition.

Here in Wisconsin, as long as the corporate abusers were aided by Republicans, the Democrats were outraged. But when one of their own displays such blatant disregard for the democratic process as the DNC has in this election, is financed by the same Wall Street CEOs who should be in jail for almost crashing the entire world economy in 2008, and is in bed with mining companies that are known destroyers of water around the world, they turn a blind eye. It literally boggles the mind.

For this reason, many Bernie supporters have taken the pledge, Bernie or Bust, as a way to fight off the plutocracy of a Clinton win:

Plutocrats’ purchase of our government is the root of all our political evils, and as the only major-party candidate who’s called for a political revolution against plutocrat money, Bernie Sanders is the only adult in the room, the only candidate utterly free from the influence of that money, and the only one with a viable platform for ridding us of it. Therefore, he’s the only major-party presidential candidate worth voting for. As solicitors of billions of plutocrat dollars, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush don’t even register on our radar as serious candidates. And we have a strong bias against other Democrats and Republicans, because their party leadership makes it virtually obligatory for them to accept oligarch dollars. As a lifelong independent scarcely funded at all by corporate dollars, strategically forced to run as a Democrat, Bernie alone has our trust. If he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination—and if he fails to, it will be due simply to party propaganda we aim vigorously to counteract—we plan to write him in in the general election. In states where write-in votes aren’t counted, we plan to simply vote Green.

The “lessor of two evils argument” falls to pieces as we look starkly at Clinton’s allegiance to corporate abusers, and her all-out war against the water for the sake of profits. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate, indeed, one of the few elected officials who understands and will fight against corporate abuse. Without this, it won’t matter which “evil” wins: one path will be the slow death by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the other a faster, more transparent descent into complete domination by the 1%.

For these reasons and so many more, no one but Bernie will do.






GTac sends message to investors: Penokee Hills unmineable.

March 28, 2015

GTacOn March 27, 2015, Gogebic Taconite (GTac) sent a letter to the Wisconsin DNR withdrawing their pre-application for a mining permit. Earlier, they had announced that the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin were “unmineable” due to wetlands, and said they would be closing their Hurley, WI offices and abandoning the idea of investing in an open-pit mountaintop removal mine here.

This victory for northern Wisconsin and concerned citizens everywhere was due to a combination of circumstances that ultimately proved once and for all that the boom and bust of the mining industry is too great a risk to the economy, environment and democracy of the region. Some of the factors for GTac’s failure to mine include:

The manner in which GTac conducted business

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

GTAC armed security forces in northern Wisconsin. Photo: Rob Ganson

Besides the $700,000 pay off to Scott Walker, the use of an unlicensed private paramilitary company to guard the mine site, the smear campaigns against scientists conducted by extreme pro-mining propaganda organizations, the death threats against concerned citizens, and being allowed to author the new mining legislation created great risk for the region.

Many never believed GTac was a real mining company. Organized as an LLC in only 2010 and having no previous iron ore experience, GTac did not behave like a mining company. Authentic taconite mining companies don’t:

· Hire an official wanted for crimes against the environment in Spain;
· Claim to know the deposit with only a few hundred core holes, when thousands are necessary;
· Hire a public relations person who only makes people angry and appears totally ignorant of mining issues and technology;
· Bulk sample using loose rock in an old hole with no knowledge of its origin;
· Put forth a mine plan which shows a pit diagram which misses much of the deposit;
· Tell blatant lies in public legislative sessions—lies which contradict their own previous statements;
· Deny the existence of minerals in the deposit that have been documented to be there for over 100 years;
· Have only a handful of employees on a project which would require hundreds;
· Use an economic study based on laws and conditions in a different state and that shows only half the picture;
· Put forth a mine plan which does not show any water storage pond/facility, when tens of millions of gallons are needed every day;
· Say they plan to dry stack their tailings, when this method has never been used in a wet climate, and propose a pile hundreds of feet high when 35 feet is pretty much a limit;
· Say they will dry stack, which is the most expensive method of tailings disposal, and at the same time say that they will be cost efficient.
· Not publish their test results (Aguila, Copperwood, Highland Copper, Eagle Mines—all published their core test results either online or in the local papers);
· Not know the extent of wetlands before performing expensive core drilling and bulk sampling;
· Contradict their own consultants while in meetings with the ACOE, DNR and EPA, resulting in those regulators telling them to come back when they get serious;
· Drill only a handful of water monitoring holes, when hundreds would be required, and never bother to install instrumentation in those that they did drill;
· Propose to convey and handle wet materials (tailings) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in a climate in which the temperature goes below -35F;
· Say they are pulling out of Ashland County, leaving almost 1/3 of the ore in the ground, because the local county board chair is “mean”;
· Get caught bribing the governor to the tune of $700,000;
· Suggest that they are going to file a permit soon, when years of investigation are still required;
· Promise 700 jobs but not be able to produce a single job description …*

This list could go on and on, but this is more than enough to know now that they were never serious about mining iron ore.


Residents of the Lake Superior basin gather in Winter 2014 to spell out “SOS Protect Our Water” with their bodies on the ice. Photo: David Doering

The power of the people
Lake Superior has always been special to those who live near her. The Lake Superior Chippewa Bands have for generations cared for the resources, particularly water and air. Natives and non-native alike living in the basin joined together to stand united in defense of the water. The new mining law, ignoring the voice of the people and putting all resources at risk, could not usurp the power of so many individuals working together on so many levels to protect the water.

All across the state, people became educated about the Penokee Hills and GTac. Frank Koehn from Save the Waters Edge and the Penokee Hills Education Project (PHEP) traveled the state with others giving presentations to local communities. Bad River potlucks became meeting grounds for action planning. The Harvest Education Learning Project (HELP) opened in the hills near the mine site and hosted thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Downstate, Madison Action for Mining Alternatives (MAMA) was formed to unite the north and the south in efforts to protect the water, not just from iron ore but sand frac mining overtaking central and southern Wisconsin. Educational events were held in Milwaukee, Madison, Wausau, Eau Claire and all across the state to raise awareness and unite concerned citizens.

As we reached out to our friends and neighbors about the vital issues of Lake Superior and Bad River water, we also increased awareness about the growing global water shortage.

Falling world iron ore prices and divestment of fossil fuel
International iron ore prices continue to fall. When the Wisconsin legislature first introduced GTac’s mining bill, prices were considerably higher. In 2014, they dropped by 49%.

According to scientists familiar with the iron ore in the Penokees, it is a low-quality formation and would have taken much more effort and expense to extract the ore from the ore body. Add to that the cost of mitigating the abundant wetlands, and it does not make a profitable investment.

The Work Continues
We must continue to stand strong together united in defense of the water. Mining won’t go away, and there are new threats to the water by way of tar sands pipelines, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), sand frac mining. According to NASA, California has about one year of fresh water left. This global crisis will reach everyone at some point. So be inspired to do something to help your local community to protect the water. Attend county board meetings, educate your neighbors, become involved with a local citizen group and continue to stay apprised of what is needed to stand united in defense of the water.

* written by Richard Theide, Iron County.

Hayward Screening of “Wisconsin Mining Standoff”

Hayward LegalWEB
** For Immediate Release ***


Hayward, September 11, Park Theatre, 6:30pm

A short documentary film which addresses the controversial, proposed iron mine in the Penokee Hills will be screened at the Park Theatre in Hayward, Wisconsin, Thursday, September 11th, 6:30pm.  A panel discussion with open community forum will follow the film.

WISCONSIN’S MINING STANDOFF was produced by Milwaukee-based 371 Productions for the Al Jazeera America “Fault Lines” program and premiered June of 2014. The filmmakers visited Ashland and Iron Counties to gather stories of the people there and the company behind the mine.

Gogebic Taconite (GTac) proposes to dig North America’s largest open pit mine in the Penokee Hills. Company executives are interviewed, as are area residents in opposition to the mine.

Viewers will visit a century-old family owned dairy farm, join a geologist on a rock hunt, and hike deep into the winter woods to spend time at a harvest camp established by members of the Lac Courtes Orielles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. Local residents and members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa raise concerns about acid mine drainage that would likely contaminate the Bad River and the large sloughs at the edge of Lake Superior.  The Chairwoman of the Iron County Mining Impact Committee, on the other hand, maintains GTac’s mine would bring desperately needed jobs to a region with high unemployment.

If you care about democracy or the environment, or simply love good drama, you won’t want to miss this deep look into the controversy.  The dive into the issues will continue after the half-hour film.  A panel made up mainly of people featured in the film will field questions from the audience.

The panelists will be:

•  Dr. Tom Fitz, geologist, Northland College
Paul DeMain, journalist, publisher of Indian County Today, member of LCO Band
Philomena Kebec, attorney, member of Bad River Band
Barbara With, citizen journalist, activist, author

The screening is sponsored by the Penokee Hills Education Project.

Press contacts:

Will Pipkin, event organizer, 715-763-3462, 715-209-3597
Devon Cupery, 371 Productions, 414-617-5843,

Bad River Watershed Association hosts “Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff”

Standing room only at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for the screening of 371 Production's "Wisconsin Mining Standoff." Photo: Bobbi Rongstad

Standing room only at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center for the screening of 371 Production’s “Wisconsin Mining Standoff.” Photo: Bobbi Rongstad

On July 24, 2014, the Bad River Watershed Association hosted a screening of 371 Production’s Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. The film is running on Al Jazeera America, and tells the story of Gogebic Taconite’s invasion of the Penokee Hills with the intention of installing a 22-mile open-pit mountaintop removal iron ore mine at the center of the Bad River Watershed. The event had standing room only.

After the film, a panel discussion was held and included people who have been instrumental in standing up to protect the water. Topics included the hydrology of the Bad River Watershed, recent EPA ruling in Bristol Bay, GTAC, recent legislation, and how we can continue to stand united in defense of the water by writing letters of support for the Chippewa Federation at their August 21, 2104 meeting with the EPA. Audience members asked informed questions and got straight answers.

Photo: Bobbi Rongstad

Photo: Bobbi Rongstad

Panel members included Sen. Bob Jauch (D-25), Chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Mike Wiggins Jr., Ashland County Board Chair Pete Russo, Ashland County Board member Charles Ortman, 371 Productions producer Devon Cupery, and Tracy Hames, executive director of Wisconsin Wetlands Association. The discussion was facilitated by Allie Raven, Bad River Tribal Member and BRWA Mining Impact Committee member.

Watch the entire informative discussion below.