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Ojibwe Tribes Resist Pit Iron Ore Mine Proposed in Northern Wisconsin

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Accordong to a Wisconsin Public Radio report published in the Ashland (WI) Current, a proposed four-mile-long, $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties is drawing criticism from nine Ojibwe nations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The mine has been proposed by Gogebic Taconite LLC (GTAC) and would be situated in the Penokee Range. “There’s been no consultation with my tribe and of course we stand to bear the brunt of the environmental impacts that are coming," said Mike Wiggins, chairman of the Bad River Lake Superior Band of Chippewa. "We’ll be drinking, breathing and eating the environmental impacts from this open pit mining project for the next 200 years."

The proposed project is linked to controversial bills being drafted by the Wisconsin State Senate and House that would change the permitting process mining companies must undergo. The bills have been criticized for their potential to reduce public input or weaken environmental standards. "It's a horrible, horrible bill," said State Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland), according to a report in the Ashland Daily Press. She cited "fewer requirements for the mining company, a lot of relaxing of (language)—instead of 'must,' it’s 'will attempt to' or 'will strive to.'"

Dave Blouin, chair of the Wisconsin Mining Committee for the Sierra Club, put it more bluntly: "This legislation is a gun to the head of Wisconsin legislators in the guise of economic development," he said.

Tribal officials had come out against the as-yet-unseen bill on May 5, when the Voight Intertribal Task Force of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission condemned it. "The tribes expressed deep concerns about hasty decisions," said Jim Zorn, the Commission's director, "Decisions that would not be based upon the best information available and that you really apply the precautionary principle that the less you know, the more careful you are."