The Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase

(FOR THE PUBLIC ACQUISITION OF THE CRANDON MINE SITE)

North American Indigenous Mining Summit at Mole Lake
Participants in the North American Indigenous Mining Summit at Mole Lake form a circle within the proposed Crandon mine site, on June 15, 2002.

 

Page Contents:

  • PRESS RELEASE on the potential Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
  • PRINCIPLES guiding the potential Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
  • CONDITIONS of the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
  • CONSERVATION VALUE of the proposed Crandon mine site
  • BACKGROUND on the growing weakness of the Crandon mine

MTN & External links :

 

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For immediate release, June 20, 2002, 9:30 am


CONTACTS:
Ken Fish, Menominee Treaty Rights and Mining Impacts,
715-799-5620 nomining@frontiernet.net
Zoltan Grossman, Midwest Treaty Network/
Wolf Watershed Educational Project, 608-246-2256 mtn@igc.org
George Rock, Trout Unlimited-Wolf River Chapter,
715-882-4800 riverrocks@dwave.net
Chuck Sleeter, Chairman of Town of Nashville,
715-484-8166 (office), 715-490-4211 (cell) townnash@newnorth.net
Liz Wessel, Wisconsin's Environmental Decade,
608-251-7020 decade@itis.com
Dave Blouin, Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter,
608-233-8455 burroak15@aol.com

An alliance of environmental, conservation, local and tribal governments, who long have been concerned about the impacts of development of the proposed Crandon Mine, today released a detailed proposal designed to permanently end the controversy over permitting the Crandon mine.

The proposal states "At this unique moment in Wisconsin�s history we make a uniquely Wisconsin proposal -- public acquisition of all of the property (nearly 5,000 acres of land and mineral rights) owned by Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) in the vicinity of the proposed mine site as a conservation area devoted to sustainable land management practices, tribal cultural values and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area. This will be the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase."

Beginning in December 2000, the broad-based alliance to protect the Wolf River began demanding that BHP Billiton (the owner of Nicolet Minerals Co.) withdraw applications for mining permits and to open a dialogue with state, tribal, and local governments to negotiate a turnover of the mine site to the public. Recently, BHP Billiton communicated to the alliance a willingness to consider a public purchase of the site. The alliance has responded with the proposal sent to Governor McCallum and legislative leaders today.

"The State of Wisconsin has an exciting opportunity to end the state's most controversial environmental issue by helping to acquire this pristine and environmentally sensitive site," said Chuck Sleeter, Board Chairman, Town of Nashville. "Our proposal will support low-impact sustainable development instead of destructive mining in the headwaters of the Wolf River. We want to protect natural and cultural resources and grow our economy wisely instead of endangering it with risky, short-term mining."

"This proposal is a winning plan for the State of Wisconsin," said Dave Blouin, Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter Mining Committee Chair. "Some may ask whether this is a payoff or a buyout of the mining company. It most certainly is not. We will not support a public bailout of this company�s bad investment. The public has spoken loud and clear about their desire to protect the Wolf River and this purchase proposal honors their wishes. Not only does this purchase end the potential for mining in the Northwoods, but the public will gain almost 5,000 acres of land that future generations will cherish for its natural and cultural resources."

The groups identified four principles to guide the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase:
1. Guarantee a permanent and inclusive solution that rules out the future resurrection of the Crandon mine proposal.
2. Safeguard the natural and cultural resources of the site into the future, with control of the mine site by an integrated board of state, local and tribal governments, and other organizations.
3. Ensure that the State of Wisconsin and other potential buyers pay a realistic price for a mine site that is unlikely to receive permits, and allow for a mix of public and private funding.
4. Offer the mining company a dignified exit from Wisconsin, and enable sustainable development to replace the mine proposal.

The proposal specifies that only a reasonable price based on fair market value of the property for conservation use be paid by the State or public support by the groups may be withdrawn. The groups in support of the proposed purchase are also open to additional sources of funding to help reduce the cost to the public.

The proposal offers conditional public support for a purchase of the Crandon mine properties and mineral rights using a mix of public and private funding. The proposal details conditions leading to control of the mine site by multiple stakeholders to ensure access to the site for the public and tribes. The purchase would result in a protected conservation area devoted to sustainable land management practices, tribal cultural values and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area of the headwaters of the Wolf River.

The groups called for a "permanent and inclusive solution that rules out the future resurrection of the Crandon mine proposal." Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network's Wolf Watershed Educational Project noted that the Exxon mining company withdrew from the site in 1986, after a decade-long permit battle only to return in 1992 to reapply for a permit. Grossman explained, "Simply defeating the mine permit is not enough, unless the land is permanently taken out of the hands of mining companies. We do not want to repeat history and fight another 10-year battle." Grossman asserted that "exclusive control by a sole owner, such as the State, would not permanently end this threat. We need either a mix of land ownership within the property, or an integrated board representing state, tribal and local interests. The only way to safeguard the natural and cultural preservation of the site is with a partnership that includes as many jurisdictions and legal powers as possible in defending the land." He pointed to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board as an example of a state-tribal- local partnership that protects natural and cultural resources.

Lisa Waukau, Chairwoman of the Menominee Indian Tribe stated: "For 10,000 years the Menominee have been stewards for over nine-and-one-half-million acres of northeastern Wisconsin. It is Indian philosophy. Humanity is charged with protecting life, including the environment. We as Menominee, indigenous to what is now known as Northeast Wisconsin, encourage and praise the thought that the State would follow suit as stewards of the pristine headwaters of the Wolf River. A Crandon mine purchase makes sense so that future generations, whether Indian or non-Indian, will enjoy the clean water, natural resources and a pristine environment just as we and our ancestors have enjoyed."

The Menominee, Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa, Forest County Potawatomi and other area tribes have stressed the protection of wild rice resources downstream from the mine site, air and water quality issues, burial sites within the site, and tribal religious access to the site.

"Many local and tribal governments downstream from the mine site are deeply opposed to development of a mine, said George Rock, Vice president of Trout Unlimited�s Wolf River Chapter. "BHP Billiton can demonstrate that it is responsive to local communities� concerns about potential problems with its proposed mine by agreeing to allow the nearly 5000-acre site and mineral rights to be purchased.

"This alliance will launch a new grassroots campaign to help ensure the success of this proposed purchase," said Liz Wessel, Executive Director, Wisconsin�s Environmental Decade. "We will ask our supporters to contact the Governor, elected officials and political leaders and ask them to support the proposal. We believe that leaders of all stripes can support this exciting purchase that protects the headwaters of the Wolf River."

Sleeter summarized: "The Crandon mine battle has been a life-and-death struggle for the local Native and non-Native communities. This proposal is not just for another land acquisition, but a way to prevent potentially expensive damage to the Wolf River and the northern tourism industry. This proposed buyout is the end result of a huge broad-based grassroots movement of local residents, tribes, environmentalists, sportfishers, unions, students and many others. It is a historic opportunity in the Crandon mine controversy, and a way to heal the divisions of the past quarter-century."

 

Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin Inc.
ECCOLA (Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Lakeland Area)
John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club
Menominee Indian Tribe
Midwest Treaty Network
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Northern Thunder
Pickerel/Crane Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
River Alliance of Wisconsin
Rolling Stone Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
Town of Nashville

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council
Wisconsin Stewardship Network - Mining Committee
Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade
Wolf River Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Wolf Watershed Educational Project
Wisconsin Citizen Action


For more information:
Mining company:www.crandonmine.com
Mine opponents: www.nocrandonmine.com

 

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Principles guiding the potential Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase


For more than a quarter-century, environmentalists, conservation groups and American Indian tribes have been fighting proposals by various mining companies to open the Crandon zinc and copper mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River, next to the Mole Lake Chippewa Reservation. The groups, along with the majority of the people of Wisconsin, feel that the temporary benefits of a mining "boom" are not worth the risk to our northern tourism industry that is dependent on clean water, or the damage to the local economy from a mining "bust." The Crandon mine risks groundwater drawdown and the resultant destruction of wetlands and ancient wild rice beds, risks pollution from acidic and toxic wastes that will persist for eons, and risks the destruction of the beauty of the headwaters of a federal Wild and Scenic River. The Crandon mine is too big a risk--either for the people of Wisconsin or for the Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC).

The broad-based alliance to protect the Wolf River headwaters has consistently made two demands of BHP Billiton (the owner of NMC.). Numerous communications to BHP Billiton's London office have asked that Crandon mine permit applications be withdrawn, and that the
company open a dialogue with state, tribal, and local governments to negotiate a turnover of the site to the people of Wisconsin. We reiterate this position here and add that we strongly believe
that insurmountable technical issues combined with recent legal decisions make it clear that attempts to gain state and federal permits for the Crandon mine are now certain to fail. The current low metals market and falling company profits have recently forced BHP Billiton to cut back drastically on metallic mining projects (see Background attachment).

Wisconsin faces an extraordinary opportunity to permanently end this controversy, in an inclusive fashion that guarantees the natural and cultural preservation of the approximately 5000-acre Crandon mine properties. Environmental, tribal and conservation leaders propose that the State of Wisconsin, in partnership with other governments and private interests, acquire the proposed mine site in the towns of Nashville and Lincoln (Forest County).

If a buy-out of the mine site and mineral rights is to occur, certain principles must be specified, and certain conditions met. Ultimately, any possible purchase requires a guarantee that no
mineral extraction will ever take place at the site, that critical stakeholders are not excluded from the process and projected outcome, that the purchase price is based on a realistic valuation of the site, and that the site be managed sustainably and inclusively for natural and cultural preservation.


1. Guarantee a permanent and inclusive solution that rules out the future resurrection of the Crandon mine proposal.

It is tempting to suggest that NMC do what previous owners of the mine site have done --to simply give up and go away. However, our experience is that this or another company will eventually return and apply for a permit (as Exxon returned in 1992 after a six-year withdrawal). Frankly, we do not want to repeat history and fight this battle again. We want the threat of mining at this site to permanently end, and the only way to end the threat is to take the site out of the hands of mining companies.

During any buy-out process, whether or not the permit processes are suspended, we will continue to oppose mine permits. Without a denial or full withdrawal of state or federal permits, we will assume that permit applications are still active. We will support pending mining reform legislation even if the Crandon site is acquired.


2. Safeguard the natural and cultural resources of the site into the future, with control of the mine site by an integrated board of state, local and tribal governments, and land trust organizations.

The potential acquisition of the property is fully dependent on the inclusion of tribal and other local stakeholders in any negotiating process and in the outcome of any land acquisition. Sole control of the entire mine site by the State alone would not take into account longstanding local and tribal interests, nor would it permanently prevent BHP Billiton or its competitors from returning to the site. Full state control could also preclude other possible sources of funding for land acquisition, and additional legal tools for the natural and cultural preservation of the site.

We propose a permanent solution to the mine controversy based on control of the site by an integrated board of state, tribal and local governments and land trust organizations, which would develop a joint land use plan to protect the local watershed and cultural properties (such as burial sites). We base this partnership on the success of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board. This partnership would be established no matter what the mix and source of funding used in land acquisition, and no matter what the mix of property holdings and jurisdictions ultimately within the site.


3. Ensure that the State of Wisconsin and other potential buyers pay a realistic price for a mine site that is unlikely to receive permits, and allow for a mix of public and private funding.

The implementation of any acquisition is fully dependent on the valuation of the land. A mining company makes project investments fully aware of the risk and financial fluctuations in the market. We believe that the Crandon mine will not receive permits due to the difficulties associated with proposed mining at this environmentally sensitive site. We also believe that current and forecasted zinc and copper commodity surpluses as well as historic low price make an already risky proposal extremely unstable. The mining company has already written the Crandon mine site off its books (in 1999).

We would reserve the right to conduct our own property appraisal, and to oppose any purchase that emphasizes the value of a permitted mine. We are open to additional funding sources to help reduce the cost to the public.


4. Offer the mining company a dignified exit from Wisconsin, and enable sustainable
development to replace the mine proposal.

BHP Billiton has a unique opportunity to turn a risky investment into a global public relations win. The Australian/South African company has long claimed that it is responsive to communities' concerns about its mining projects. It can now demonstrate that claim, by recognizing that a majority of Wisconsin residents (in a 2001 poll) have stated that they do not want this mine. The company also has a unique chance to "lock up" the ore body against any potential competitors.

In place of an unsustainable and uncertain mine proposal, a public acquisition would enable area governments to devise low-impact and sustainable development to support the local economy.

Crandon mine opponents have invested many millions of dollars, their local communities' economic well being, and many years of their individual lives to protect the Wolf River headwaters.

The organizations represented below are prepared to publicly support the process leading to the public acquisition of the mine site if it follows the principles outlined above, and to actively oppose any solution that does not follow these principles.


Signed by authorized representatives of:


Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin Inc.
ECCOLA (Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Lakeland Area)
John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club
Menominee Indian Tribe
Midwest Treaty Network
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
Northern Thunder
Pickerel/Crane Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Town of Nashville Rolling Stone Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council
Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade
Wolf River Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Wolf Watershed Educational Project
Bob Hudek, Wisconsin Citizen Action* (for identification purposes only)
Wisconsin Stewardship Network - Mining Committee

 

 

 

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CONDITIONS OF THE WOLF RIVER HEADWATERS PROTECTION PURCHASE

 

OPEN LETTER TO WISCONSIN STATE GOVERNMENT LEADERS:

Governor Scott McCallum
cc: Senate President Fred Risser and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala
Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and Assembly Majority Leader Steve Foti
Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer
Assembly Minority Leader Spencer Black
Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs Senator Brian Burke and Representative John Gard


Leaders from environmental, conservation and public interest groups, local and tribal governments, and local and state mining organizations, who long have been concerned about the impacts of development of the proposed Crandon Mine, have been meeting to discuss an alternative future for Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Now is the calm before the storm -- the last opportunity for thoughtful consideration of alternatives to the upcoming contentious battle over the Crandon Mine Environmental Impact Statement and mine permit Master Hearing. We believe the proposed Crandon Mine project faces many regulatory and environmental hurdles that may never be overcome.

We have dared to ask: What if the total energy and money likely to be spent by proponents and opponents of the Crandon Mine were instead diverted to a campaign for a sustainable economic and environmental future for Wisconsin’s Northwoods?

At this unique moment in Wisconsin’s history we make a uniquely Wisconsin proposal -- public acquisition of all of the property (5,000 acres of land and mineral rights) owned by Nicolet Minerals Company (NMC) in the vicinity of the proposed mine site as a conservation area devoted to sustainable land and forest management practices, tribal cultural values, and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area. This will be the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase. This initiative should include a mix of public and private sources, including the State Stewardship Fund

We call on Governor McCallum to support this initiative with the full commitment of his office by directing Department of Administration Secretary Lightbourn to prepare a Letter of Intent with Nicolet Minerals Company to purchase the site. We call on NMC to support initiation of the purchase agreement process. We ask that our elected officials and candidates for governor join in thoughtful discussion of this proposal and not raise barriers to consideration of this unique opportunity for public acquisition of the Wolf River Headwaters.

We would support use of public resources to acquire NMC’s proposed mine site based on the following conditions:

  1. The cost of the acquisition to the public must be reasonable based on appraisals reflecting the fair market value of the property for conservation use and the mineral rights in their undeveloped state.

  2. Mineral rights shall be held by the public and deed restricted to prevent development of the mine.

  3. The State should pursue a mix of public and private funding sources (such as federal, local and tribal governments, and private organizations) as is common practice with Stewardship Fund projects. The State Stewardship Fund should not be the sole source for funding on this project.

  4. Any cost to the State Stewardship Fund shall be spread over time after final payment of current obligations, preserve the priority of planned and scheduled purchases, and not bankrupt the program for this unique purchase.

  5. The State shall consult with us and provide meaningful participation for our designated representatives during the negotiations concerning the acquisition of the property and mineral rights.

  6. Subsequent management and control of the property will be developed through negotiations and legislative action patterned on a state-tribal-local partnership, such as the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board. Management of the site must preserve the natural and cultural resources of the site into the future and provide tribal access for use of these cultural and natural resources. Resource management shall be carried out at the watershed scale to protect the high-quality water resources and habitat for game, non-game and endangered species while encouraging appropriate tourism development in an area that would otherwise have put these resources at serious risk.

  7. The State shall ensure adequate financial and technical assistance to establish and maintain sustainable land and forest management practices and tourism suitable to this environmentally sensitive area. This will build on current local sustainable development efforts, such as Northwoods NiiJii Enterprise Community Inc.

  8. Consistent with state and federal environmental laws regulations NMC its parent company will remain legally responsible for any contamination of the project real estate caused by or agents employees.



Signed by authorized representatives of

Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin Inc.
ECCOLA (Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Lakeland Area)
John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club
Menominee Indian Tribe
Midwest Treaty Networkt
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
Northern Thunder
Pickerel/Crane Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
River Alliance of Wisconsin
Rolling Stone Lake Protection and Rehabilitation District
Sokaogon Chippewa Community
Town of Nashville
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council
Wisconsin Stewardship Network - Mining Committee
Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade
Wolf River Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Wolf Watershed Educational Project
Bob Hudek, Wisconsin Citizen Action* (for identification purposes only)


 

CONSERVATION VALUE OF THE PROPOSED CRANDON MINE SITE

LARGE VERSION
spring
Spring within the Crandon mine site, April 25, 2002.
LARGE VERSION
fawn
Fawn within the Crandon mine site.
Photos: John Coleman  colemanj@calshp.cals.wisc.edu

Natural Values of the Wolf River Watershed Require Greater Protection
Introduction to natural resources protected by the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase

 

The roughly 4,800 acre site, including the option lands, has tremendous potential as a conservation, recreation, research and education area. Limited disturbance to the site has preserved biological diversity, unusual and rare habitats, and over 750 plant and animal species, including more than 50 endangered, threatened and special concern species. Several sites within the purchase site, exhibit natural values that would qualify for designation as state Natural Areas. Stewardship Fund monies have historically been used for acquisitions under the state Natural Areas Heritage Program.

With or without the potential for a mining project, this site is deserving of permanent protection through public acquisition. The tribes and other opponents, the mining companies, and the state of Wisconsin have together spent millions of dollars on research at the site and have confirmed that its unique resources should be protected forever. The huge research investment already made at the site into geology, surface and groundwater hydrology and biological diversity should not be lost or neglected. Rare and unusual habitats should provide a "living classroom" for local and regional study

Moreover, the site also has outstanding potential for public recreation and education. Abundant fisheries in the lakes and streams would become available via the purchase. Existing roads and trails could be developed into a non-motorized hiking, biking, and skiing trail system and potentially a winter snowmobiling route, yet still protect fragile natural and cultural resources at the site. The potential exists for public facilities including camping along at least one of the lakes at the site. Preliminary discussions have taken place about the potential development of an public interpretive center that would focus on natural, cultural and historical values of the site.

Rice Lake

Rice Lake is the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community's only source of wild rice. The lake is fed by Swamp Creek, which flows from the mine site and then on to the Wolf River. The wild rice found there is the reason why the Sokaogon Chippewa settled there and the rice was the object of the 1806 battle between the Chippewa and Sioux. Many burial sites are located on or nearby the mine site. Rice Lake is also an important food resource for migratory waterfowl.

Wolf River

In 1968, twenty-four miles of the Wolf, from the Langlade-Menominee County line downstream to Keshena Falls, were designated as one of the original eight National Wild and Scenic Rivers and one of only three (The other two are the St. Croix and the Namekagon.) designated in Wisconsin. Wisconsin also designated the river (but not its tributaries) an Outstanding Resource Water in 1988, in recognition of its excellent water quality and high quality fisheries. Today, the Wolf retains its scenic beauty and is enjoyed by anglers, rafters, and kayakers from all over the United States and is the backbone of northeastern Wisconsin's summer tourism industry from its headwaters to Lake Winnebago.

The Wolf River and its headwaters and tributaries are of significant economic, cultural, and spiritual importance to the Menominee and Chippewa tribes. The Wolf supports abundant wild rice beds and essential habitat for sturgeon of Lake Winnebago system.

The upper Wolf River is considered one of the premier trout fishing rivers in the Midwest, sporting native brook, brown, and rainbow trout. The Wolf River is one of the last clean, large white water trout streams, free of major upstream development in the Midwest.

Bald eagles, our majestic national symbol, nest along and fish the waters of the Wolf River along with other rare and endangered species. The largest freshwater fish, Lake Sturgeon, has lived and spawned in the Wolf River for thousands of years.

Wild rice is a grain which grows in wetlands and shallow waterways and requires near-pristine conditions to grow. Annual harvests of wild rice from the Wolf River are of cultural significance and rice remains a major food source for many Native American people.

Wetlands

Wetlands comprise approximately 600 acres within the proposed mine site boundary and are significant resources which help preserve the pristine groundwater aquifer and protect lakes and streams - especially tributaries of Rice Lake and the Wolf River.

Biologically important wetlands at the mine site include the Bur Oak wetland and bog adjacent to Berry Lane and the Swamp Creek Cedars between Berry Lane and Swamp Creek. The Bur Oak wetland is an interesting mix of wetland adapted oaks, sedge meadows and black ash swamp and has been considered for State Natural Area status.

The Swamp Creek Cedars is a dense cedar swamp that is the home of several species of rare plants. The uplands include a multitude of ephemeral or seasonal wetlands that are breeding areas for a diverse assemblage of amphibians including a state listed endangered species. Two State listed ferns are among the many rare species that have been found in the uplands.

Lakes

Lakes at the site include Little Sand, Duck, Skunk, Oak, and Deep Hole. Together they comprise more than 400 acres of high quality recreational fisheries and include such species as Northern Pike, Walleye, Bluegill, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Pumpkinseed, and Yellow Perch. Good fisheries exist on all but Skunk Lake and offer public recreational opportunities.

Little Sand is the only lake at the site that currently has private cottages; only a handful remain after most of the private owners' were bought out by the mining companies and dismantled or removed from the lake front. Little Sand Lake has the potential to become a significant public recreational resource; camping, boating, hiking, biking, swimming and fishing are all possible uses at Little Sand Lake.

Oak, Duck and Skunk lakes are entirely undeveloped and should remain so. It is rare to have the opportunity to acquire undeveloped lake frontage. Ideally, each would be limited to "walk in" access, to best protect them.

Streams

Larger streams at the site include Swamp Creek, Hemlock Creek and their tributaries. Many are fed by natural groundwater seeps and springs. All are excellent trout fisheries and provide diverse habitat for fish and wildlife. Preservation of Swamp Creek is paramount to the protection of Rice Lake and its rice beds that are an important cultural and subsistence resource for the Sokaogon Chippewa Community.

There are rapids and pools on Swamp Creek that are among the most biologically diverse areas of the stream and contain several rare species, including two species of State listed mussels, the Elktoe and the Round Pigtoe. Unique sections of Swamp Creek in the watershed have been the focus of several biological and hydrological studies by the mining company, the State and the tribes.

Forests

Northern Hardwood second-growth forest covers most of the site (approximately 60%), and Swamp Conifer forest (approx. 20%) occurs along almost all the streams and in a few pockets of upland sites. Forestry management using sustainable yield logging of stands in less sensitive sites could be developed to help ensure long-term income from the property.

 

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BACKGROUND ON THE GROWING WEAKNESS
OF THE CRANDON MINE PROPOSAL


The legal and technical challenges ahead for the proposed Crandon mine are numerous. Even without factoring in the technical hurdles to gaining mine permits, recent financial, legal and regulatory developments make it clear that the latest attempt to open a mine at this pristine site is certain to fail. The mine is proposed by the Nicolet Minerals Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian/South African mining conglomerate BHP Billiton--now the world's largest mining company.

It is time to face the obvious. Metallic sulfide mining at the headwaters of the Wolf River is unlikely to be permitted by the state or federal governments. The proposed mine is opposed by the people of the area and by people from around the state who come to vacation, to fish, to canoe, to relax.


1. The Crandon mine is an increasingly risky investment.

Zinc and copper prices have reached historic lows in the last year. BHP Billiton reported a 33% drop in profits for its most recent quarter (Dec. 2001-Feb. 2002). Weak copper prices pushed earnings from its base metals division down by more than one half compared to the same period a year earlier.

BHP Billiton shut down its operating Arizona copper operations at the beginning of this year, and has recently begun significant cuts of copper outputs in its South American operations, including Peru and Chile Even if a permit were issued, the depressed state of metals prices has led to the closure of other mines around the world. The proposed Crandon mine is not economically viable.

The mining company wrote the project down to zero on its books in 1999, and in 2000 declared the project a "non-core asset." On June 19, 2002, BHP Billiton announced the sale of its only remaining operation in the U.S. (Wyoming's Smith Ranch uranium mine)"...as part of its planned divestment of non-core businesses."

2. The public increasingly opposes the Crandon mine.

New public relations efforts to educate the public about the mine's potential impacts have reawakened the public, the media and public officials to the threats of the mine. NMC's inability or refusal to respond in kind to a statewide $250,000 ad campaign for the cyanide ban legislation is a strong signal that the project funding is unstable.

Statewide polling data proves that the longer the mine permitting controversy continues the more state residents oppose it and support mining law reform. Polling data from last summer showed the majority of state residents oppose the mine and strongly support mining law reforms such as the cyanide ban for mining and the closure of loopholes giving the mining industry special treatment. The numbers increased in northeastern Wisconsin, closer to the proposed mine site.
http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/poll.html

The state Conservation Congress, whose mission is to advise the Department of Natural Resources on policy issues, has twice voted overwhelmingly to oppose the use of cyanide in mining, and many local governments, conservation groups and unions have passed similar resolutions.

3. Recent legal and regulatory developments render the project more difficult.

The DNR has rejected the mining company's single example of a mine that had been operated and closed for 10 years -- a requirement that must be met under Wisconsin's Mining Moratorium Law. The DNR's rejection of the Sacaton mine in an Arizona desert as a proof that mining can be conducted safely in a Wisconsin wetland environment is a major victory for mine opponents.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of the Sokaogon Chippewa to adopt water regulations that have an impact on upstream, off-reservation activities - specifically the proposed mine. The right of the Chippewa to protect the resources of Swamp Creek and Rice Lake from the impacts of the mine creates tough new challenges for any mining applicant.

Although the cyanide ban and no special treatment bills were blocked in the Assembly Environment Committee, both bills were passed by the State Senate, and attracted widespread bipartisan support in the Assembly. Both bills will be reintroduced in the next legislative session.

4. The mine as proposed will be unlikely to receive permits.

NMC's most optimistic predictions show that the mine will violate state groundwater regulations when mining halts and the mine is reflooded with groundwater. NMC's own predictions show violations of state groundwater standards at the compliance boundary. DNR-directed modeling of contaminants from the mine shows even greater contamination of the groundwater.

NMC's method for containing contaminants requires perpetual pumping of groundwater at the mine site. The contaminated groundwater would need to be treated at a wastewater treatment plant and discharged. The company assumes that contaminated groundwater can be pumped from the reflooded ore body forever.

State modeling of contaminants traveling from the Tailings Management Area (TMA) shows violation of groundwater standards at the compliance boundary (edge of the regulated mine area). These predictions assume that the TMA cap will be replaced approximately every 100 years, forever. NMC calculations of TMA compliance with state groundwater standards unrealistically assume, among other things, that the TMA cap will be maintained and replaced forever.

Air modeling by the state shows that NMC will be in violation of air standards for Total Suspended Particulates. The federal Environmental Justice Doctrine, as well as the fiduciary responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to protect cultural resources of American Indian tribes in the area create significant impediments to issuing permits for any mining applicant at this site.

Mine opponents have retained a cadre of expert witnesses that are first class in the following areas: mining, solid waste, structural stability, air emissions, groundwater/surface water, wetlands, urban planning, etc. These experts provide important "fire power" in raising technical and legal issues in the federal and state permitting process.

 

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