Penokee Hills Mine Opponents Make Their Case

Gogebic Taconite‘s proposed open-pit mine in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin is becoming a focal point for Native American treaty rights activists, mine opponents said at a Milwaukee forum Saturday.


The mine “is genocide on our friends and neighbors in Bad River,” Frank Koehn of the Penokee Hills Education Project said. “We are not going to let them in the hills.”


Gogebic is proposing a 22-mile-long, 1/2 mile wide and 1,000 foot deep open-pit iron mine a few miles from Lake Superior.


Map of the Bad River watershed.
Map of the Bad River watershed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Koehn, a longtime environmental activist and former Bayfield County Supervisor, said that the rocks that would be mined in this project would be pulverized to get at the roughly 20% iron. The remaining dust from the pulverized rock has contaminants like sulfides, arsenic and asbestos. The mine threatens both air quality and the streams leading into Lake Superior.


Indigenous activists from around the country have pledged to come to Wisconsin to prevent the mine from operating, Koehn said.


Researcher and organizer for Madison Action for Mining Alternatives Carl Sack said the mine represented a “grave threat” to the environment. He noted that since a proposed mine in Crandon, WI was defeated in the 1990s, a mining industry publication has called the state “the worst place in the world to mine.” Sack said “we intend to keep it that way.”


“While the Republican-controlled state legislature may believe that industry is more important than water quality and air quality,” Sack said, “the more people learn about this mine, the less they support it.”




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