ARTICLES AND STATEMENTS
Lake Sokaogon Chippewa tribal member Frances Van Zile places tobacco tie
on the gate of the proposed Crandon mine site--"the tobacco tie that will
end the Crandon mine." June 15, 2002.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON ACTION ALERT:
When contacting the Governor, legislators and media, make sure that you support a "PUBLIC ACQUISITION" of the Crandon mine site, not simply a "STATE BUYOUT." We only need to look to the thousands of mineral exploration leases on State-owned lands throughout the U.S. (including Wisconsin) to understand that exclusive State control is NOT enough to protect the site for future generations.
A mix of public and private funding for the site purchase, combined with integrated control over management of the site, will ensure that no mining company could ever return. Joint management by state, tribal, local and private agencies will guarantee not only that natural resources are protected, but also cultural resources (such as tribal burial sites, religious access, and harvesting access).
Wisconsin has twice gone through decade-long battles over this mine (in 1976-1986 and 1992-2002). We don't want mining companies to return again for any more decade-long battles! We need a PERMANENT and INCLUSIVE solution to the Crandon mine conflict.
River Headwaters Protection Purchase
GOVERNOR SCOTT McCALLUM STATEMENT
STATEMENT BY DALE ALBERTS,
June 20, 2002
GOVERNOR SAID HE'LL CONSIDER PROPOSAL
Mining firm would consider land sale;
State might buy Crandon mine site
June 21, 2002
Ron Seely Environment reporter,
Wisconsin State Journal
A proposal for the state to buy land that is being considered for a large zinc and copper mine near Crandon may signal an approaching end to one of Wisconsin's most bitter environmental controversies.
For the past 25 years, four major mining companies - Exxon, Rio Algom, Billiton Plc., and BHP Billiton - have tried to secure permits to mine the 60 million-ton ore deposit south of Crandon, in northeastern Wisconsin. The plan has been fought every step of the way by state environmentalists, largely because the mine is at the headwaters of the Wolf River, one of the state's most pristine rivers.
Thursday, Gov. Scott McCallum and officials with Nicolet Minerals Co. said they are interested in pursuing a suggestion from several environmental groups and state Indian tribes calling for the state to buy the almost 5,000 acres of land and the mineral rights from Nicolet. indent"The proposal," McCallum said in a news release, "is an intriguing idea that deserves further consideration and discussion."
McCallum said he intends to meet with all the parties involved in the proposed purchase to discuss potential effects on the local economy were the mine not to be built. According to Nicolet, the proposed mine would be a $400 million construction project with an estimated economic impact of $1.5 billion. The mine would provide as many as 400 jobs over its 30-year life, the company said.
The purchase proposal brought cautious interest from Nicolet. In a three-paragraph statement, Dale Alberts, Nicolet president, said the company will continue to pursue permits for the project.
"However," Alberts said, "the company would be willing to consider an offer to purchase the property, if the purchase is in the best interests of Nicolet's parent company, BHP Billiton, and the offer reflects the value of this project to our shareholders." indentThe purchase proposal surfaced in the last month, according to David Blouin, who chairs the mining committee of the state's Sierra Club chapter. He said mining opponents have been discussing the idea with Nicolet's parent company, BHP Billiton, and that, recently, the company suggested through a neutral third party that it might be interested in selling.
Blouin said the timing is good for such a plan. He said BHP Billiton is divesting itself of what it calls "non-core assets," including the proposed Crandon project. He said the company sold a western uranium mine Wednesday.
But Blouin stressed that the proposal is not a payoff or a buyout. Instead, he said, the plan calls for using a combination of money from the state Stewardship Fund and private conservation groups to buy the land and mineral rights "for a reasonable price based on fair market value."
The proposal from the environmental groups calls for management of the site by an integrated board of state, local and tribal governments.
"We will not support a public bailout of this company's bad investment," Blouin said.
It is crucial, Blouin added, that mineral rights also be purchased. "We want to permanently end this controversy," he said. "Gaining the mineral rights would do that."
Not everybody was happy with the idea. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business organization, blasted the proposal. James Haney, the organization's president, called the proposed purchase a "taxpayer bailout."
"The state's only role," said Haney, "should be to either approve or reject the permit for the mine. Wisconsin has a $1.1 billion deficit, and the taxpayers shouldn't be forced to pick up the tab to buy out a project deemed politically unpopular."
Haney said the environmental groups should buy the land themselves. Among the 17 tribes and environmental groups making the announcement Thursday were the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club, Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Lakeland Area, Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Menominee Indian Tribe, Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community, Wisconsin's Environmental Decade and the River Alliance of Wisconsin.
Others praised the plan. Kathleen Falk, Dane County executive and Democratic candidate for governor, said she supports the use of Stewardship funds if the state "pays a fair market value and the companies are not enriched."
State Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, a longtime opponent of the mine, said Thursday's announcement signals an apparent end to the decades-long controversy.
"The reality," Black said, "is that the mining company wanted out. For all practical purposes, it's the end of the mine."
1969: Exxon Coal and Minerals Co. of Houston begins mineral exploration in northern Wisconsin.
1976: Exxon announces the discovery of a deposit south of Crandon with perhaps 60 million tons of zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver ore. It is described as one of the 10 largest ore bodies of its type in North America.
1980: Exxon negotiates a purchase option to buy 880 acres of forest from Forest County for $2,000 an acre, or $1.76 million. 1982: Exxon applies to the state for the necessary permits to mine the Crandon deposit, which triggers the Department of Natural Resources' formal review of the idea.
1986: Exxon announces it is suspending plans for the mine because of low metal prices. The company says it invested $60 million in the project since 1976.
1993: Exxon forms a 50-50 partnership with Rio Algom Ltd. of Toronto and creates a subsidiary called Crandon Mining Co.
1994: Crandon Mining applies to the state for the necessary permits to open the Crandon mine. The plan calls for mining 55 million tons of ore at a projected 5,500 tons per day.
1998: Exxon sells its interests in the mine to Rio Algom for $17.5 million but retains a 2.5 percent royalty on profits. Crandon Mining is renamed Nicolet Minerals Co. Nicolet Minerals announces it has redesigned the project so less water seeps into the mine and it will remove the most harmful sulfur so it won't be buried with the waste rock. The company says it hopes to begin construction in 2001.
1999: Rio Algom decreases the book value of the mining project from $76 million to zero, and characterizes it as a late-term exploration project as opposed to a full-scale development project.
2000: State regulators say a proposed environmental impact statement on the mine will be delayed for months because the mining company's plan was still being developed for dealing with contaminated water in underground shafts after the mine closes. Rio Algom's board of directors votes to accept a $1.2 billion buyout offer from London-based Billiton Plc., one of the world's leading mining and metals businesses. Billiton says it is transferring assets of its U.S. holdings to a subsidiary in Ireland, but Nicolet Minerals spokesman says the move has no impact on development of the Crandon project.
2001: Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske rules the local agreement with the town of Nashville is valid. The town appeals. BHP Ltd., headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and Billiton announce a merger to create the world's second-largest metals company, to be called BHP Billiton, with headquarters in Melbourne.
2002: The Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin said the owners
of the mine were responsible for 31 spills of hazardous materials over
four years in Arizona and Nevada.
Groups ask state to buy mine property
Mine jobs might never see light of day
By Keith Uhlig
Wausau Daily Herald
Fri, June 21, 2002
CRANDON - About 300 jobs earmarked for local workers will disappear if the state buys the land proposed for a zinc and copper mine in Forest County.
Environmental concerns aside, very few dispute that a mine run by Nicolet Minerals would give Crandon and the area around it a much-needed economic shot in the arm. The poverty rate in Forest County is among the highest in the state, said John Gartner, the community natural resource and economic development agent for the University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Crandon.
For the first four months of 2002, unemployment rates in the county ranged from 7.8 to 9.9 percent, while state averages ranged from 5.7 to 6.7 percent, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
"It would have been a big boon to the area," said Crandon Mayor Pat Dewitt. He said he thinks most people in his town support opening the mine, but no one is relying on the jobs to come. "We've been waiting for it for 20 years."
Valerie Swanson, 18, of Crandon said she is torn by the possibility of the mine. She works as a bartender, a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home and as a home health care worker. She said she knows the mine would create high-paying jobs, but she thinks its potential threat to the environment outweighs the economic benefit.
"There are good parts and there's bad," she said. "I suppose when it comes right down to it, it's not worth it."
Gartner said the mine's economic impact is far greater than 300 jobs. Nicolet Minerals would have to contribute 10 percent to 12 percent of its gross income to a Mining Impact Fund that could be used by local government agencies to upgrade roads and schools, start projects such as small business incubators and promote a more diversified economy.
The 300 jobs would be higher paying than the typical minimum-wage jobs now common in the area, Gartner said, and tax coffers for local governments would benefit because right now 70 percent of the county's land is nontaxable.
Dewitt said Crandon hasn't been waiting for the opening of the mine to pursue economic diversity. The city has successfully wooed several smaller businesses while Nicolet Minerals has pursued the permits necessary for the mine.
"If we continue to wait, we'll be dead before it gets started," he said.
Even people who don't expect to work at the proposed mine think it would help their financial situation, Dewitt said. They think that other local employers would have to raise wages to compete with the high-paying mine jobs.
Chuck Sleeter, chairman of the town of Nashville, a leader of mine opponents, said the economic advantages are dwarfed by the environmental and other costs of the mine. He thinks that even if the mine did open, it could just as easily fold.
"What do we do with 300 people who can't pay the mortgages, can't pay their taxes?" he said.
State mining buy would be unprecedented, expert says
by Robert Imrie
Posted on Sat., Jun. 22, 2002
A proposal for the state to purchase 5,000 acres of land, essentially buying out a mining company's interest in building an underground zinc and copper mine in northern Wisconsin, would be unprecedented in the United States, an industry official says.
The concept has been done before, most recently in Montana, but the buyer was the federal government, not the state, and it paid $65 million, said Laura Skaer, executive director of the Northwest Mining Association based in Spokane, Wash.
"Are the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin going to be willing to pay the price to buy the rights the company has there? That is the $64,000 question. We are talking millions of dollars," she said Friday.
Skaer's group has 2,000 members representing hard-rock mining companies and suppliers of mining companies in 38 states and nine Canadian provinces.
Gov. Scott McCallum said Thursday he will consider a proposal from a coalition of conservation groups and tribal governments for the state to buy the 5,000 acres near Crandon owned by Nicolet Minerals Co.
The property includes 550 acres where the milling of 55 million tons of ore would take place and mining wastes would be piled.
Nicolet Minerals President Dale Alberts said the mining company was willing to listen to a proposal to buy the land.
"Right now, it is just a concept," Alberts said Friday. "I wouldn't speculate on a price."
Since the ore was discovered, different mining companies, including Nicolet Minerals, a subsidiary of London-based BHP Billiton, have collectively spent at least $150 million to try to develop the project, Alberts said.
Forest County Treasurer Grace Tauer said the 5,000 acres were valued at $13.5 million for tax purposes in 2000, but could be worth more.
The county's valuation is set only on the land's surface value and does not take underground metals and minerals into account, Tauer said.
Nicolet Minerals said the land covers the largest undeveloped zinc deposit in North America.
Editorial: Crandon mine site may be more valuable untouched
June 26, 2002
It's human nature to place a value on everything. It helps us set our priorities, from what we buy to how we spend our time.
There's a value we place on the environment, as well, which, in the case of 5,000 acres in the heart of northern Wisconsin, is a little higher today, thanks to some interested parties. The state of Wisconsin, backed by environmental groups and tribal governments have decided that the land, located at the headwaters of the Wolf River, is more valuable as undeveloped nature, than a mine for Nicolet Minerals.
It is the right approach that, with a legitimate level of public support, will not only prevent future threats of mining, but also formally validate the preservation of the land for the people of Wisconsin. In real estate, for every degree of value, there is a price.
For years now, Nicolet Minerals has pursued state and federal permits to mine 55 million tons of zinc and copper ore from the Crandon site. The course has been littered with stumbling blocks, delays and $150 million spent by past and present mining companies just to keep the project alive against regulatory procedures and environmental opposition Now, Nicolet has indicated a willingness to listen to the state's offer, although it will continue pursuing the necessary permits to mine.
The money to purchase the land is expected to be a combination of private and public funds, including the state's Stewardship Fund.
The Stewardship Fund, with no connection to the state's beleaguered budget, is an altogether appropriate source for this acquisition. The fund has more than $300 million available specifically assigned to purchase land for conservation in the coming years. If there was ever a site targeted by conservation efforts, state and national, it is Crandon.
Whatever the price, environmental groups, the tribes, state authorities and the citizens of Wisconsin will have to decide if the 5,000 acres is worth it. It's an important decision to make, but it's finally in the right hands.
Mine company: Wyoming sale doesn't affect Wisconsin project
Posted June 29, 2002
The Associated Press
A company's proposed sale of a Wyoming mine does not mean it also wants to sell thousands of acres in northern Wisconsin where it plans to put a zinc and copper mine, a company executive said Friday.
BHP Billiton has agreed to sell its Smith Ranch uranium mine in Wyoming to Cameco Corp. of Canada.
The sale awaits regulatory approval.
A week ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum said he will consider a proposal from a coalition of conservation groups and tribal governments for the state to buy about 5,000 acres near Crandon owned by Nicolet Minerals Co., a subsidiary of BHP Billiton.
No sale prices have been mentioned.
The mining company has described the site as the largest undeveloped zinc deposit in North America.
Francis McAllister, vice president of investor relations for BHP Billiton in Houston, said Friday the sale of the Wyoming uranium mine does not mean the company is trying to divest itself of its U.S. assets, which also include two Arizona copper mines.
"We do not view uranium as a core asset," McAllister said. "I would say, if anything, the operation in Wisconsin actually fits into our base metals portfolio much better than any type of uranium operation would."
BHP Billiton, which acquired the Crandon site in a merger with Rio Algom Ltd. of Toronto, is simply willing to listen to any "economically viable" offer to buy the Wisconsin property, he said.
"We are not sitting here today and telling you that just because these groups have come together and have lobbied the state to potentially buy this asset that we are going to sell it to them," McAllister said. "We are not looking at coming up with a price."
Most of the company's metallic mines similar to the Crandon proposal are in Canada or Latin America, he said.
BHP Billiton does not see the proposed Crandon mine as one its "major top-tier assets," McAllister said. "Would it be something that would contribute to earnings and cash flow? Yes. Otherwise, we would not be pursuing it."
About seven years ago, the mining company applied for state and federal permits that would allow it to mine about 55 million tons of ore at the Crandon site.
BHP Billiton, a merger of mining companies headquartered in the United Kingdom and Australia, has only had the mining project for two years so executives are not getting restless with the regulatory process, McAllister said.
"I wouldn't say they are getting frustrated in any way," he said.
State Administration Secretary George Lightbourn said last week his agency won't talk to the mining company about buying the property until it gets two independent appraisals of the land, as it does with every purchase using the state's stewardship fund.
Buy out the Crandon mine
June 29, 2002
If Nicolet Minerals Co. is willing to sell its land and mineral rights at its proposed mine near Crandon, state officials should be doing everything they can to see that such a sale takes place and that the land ends up as public property. The rub, of course, is that the state already has serious fiscal problems, and Nicolet probably won't sell cheap.
And that's where the environmental groups and Indian tribes that have long opposed the project, and that back public acquisition of the land, come in. If they really want to help the state and the environment, they can back their opposition to the mine with some cold cash. Raising serious dollars to help the state buy the land - or raising all the dollars for the purchase and then donating the land to the state - would help ensure that the Crandon mine never gets built.
Raising such money is certainly a worthwhile goal. The copper and zinc deposit near Crandon is said to be one of the richest ore deposits in North America. It also sits under one of Wisconsin's richest and most environmentally fragile natural treasures - the wetlands in and around the headwaters of the Wolf River. The surest way to protect those waters is to not dig the mine.
Nicolet Mining has gone to great lengths to turn the Crandon mine proposal into the "most environmentally friendly ever designed in the world." For that, the company should be commended. But the "most environmentally friendly" is a relative term that may not mean much, given mining's overall spotty record on the environment. And even with all the improvements, the mine's potential danger to the environment - and to the area's tourism and recreation industry - still makes it, in our view, too risky to dig.
Fortunately, Nicolet Mining may have reached its own conclusion that the mine is too expensive to dig; it recently used a go-between to contact environmentalists and Indians about a possible sale. Mineral prices are weak now, and Nicolet's parent company is selling off other mining assets. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court decision that allows the Sokaogon Chippewa - neighbors of the proposed mine - to set the standard for groundwater used in the mining process. The tribe promised that its standard would be tougher than the state's.
Lots of details still need to be worked out, but clearly the best result would be a conservancy area under public protection. To make sure that happens, environmentalists need to get on the phones to contact generous donors, and tribes need to examine their bank accounts. Private donors could do a great service by making sure this land ends up in public hands.
First appraisal of Crandon mine property completed
By Robert Imrie
Associated Press Writer
The first of two appraisals has been done to set the value of about 5,000 acres of a proposed underground zinc and copper mine in northern Wisconsin for possible sale to the state, a state official said Thursday.
But Administration Secretary George Lightbourn said the figure - and a second appraisal expected to be completed soon - won't be released to the public until after negotiations with Nicolet Minerals Co. are completed.
"Anything that is part of negotiations is not public record," he said. "We are going to hang onto them until we conclude negotiations." The state sought two appraisals of the property after Gov. Scott McCallum said in June he would consider a proposal from a coalition of conservation groups and tribal governments for the state to buy the land owned by Nicolet Minerals, in essence buying out the mining project near Crandon.
The property includes 550 acres where the milling of ore would take place over 30 years and mining wastes would be piled.
The appraisals include the value of the mineral rights, providing a first step in deciding whether the state could begin negotiations with the mining company.
Nicolet Minerals President Dale Alberts was out of his office Thursday afternoon and did not immediately return a telephone call for comment. He has said he wanted the issue of whether the state might buy the property resolved this month.
It was possible that could happen, Lightbourn said Thursday in a telephone interview from Madison. State negotiations to buy land for public stewardship "sometimes go very quickly," he said.
Lightbourn refused to characterize the first appraisal, saying only it had several variables.
Nicolet Minerals, a subsidiary of global mining giant BHP Billiton, seeks state, local and federal permits to mine 55 million tons of ore from a mine near the headwaters of the Wolf River and the Mole Lake Reservation.
Critics claim the mine will harm the environment, while supporters argue the mining can be done safely and will create badly needed jobs.
Exxon Coal and Minerals Co. discovered the deposit of perhaps 60 million tons of zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver ore in 1976. It has been described as one of the 10 largest ore bodies of its type in North America.
Caryl Terrell, director of the state Sierra Club, said that in keeping the appraisals confidential until either a deal is made or a possible sale falls apart, Lightbourn is following the procedure the state has used in purchasing other real estate.
The appraisal is a tool in the negotiations, she said. "The appraisal is either going to be too low for the mining company, too high for the environmentalists or just right," she said. "Our support is conditioned on this being a fair price for the taxpayers and not bankrupting the state Stewardship Fund."
Terrell said she is convinced the mining company wants to sell the land.
Nicolet Minerals applied for the permits to open the mine in 1994, and state regulators have said they intend to recommend by early next year whether the mine can be operated safely without harming the environment.
Two teams comprised of separate experts in land values and mineral rights did the appraisals for the state - The Nicholson Group of Hartland and Gustavson Associates Inc. of Boulder, Colo., and Steigerwaldt Land Services of Tomahawk and Stagg Resource Consultants Inc. of Cross Lanes, W.Va.
Larry Nicholson, president of The Nicholson Group, said appraising a property with underground minerals was a unique project because there are only a handful of experts in the country who do such evaluations.
Asked to react to the appraisal his team submitted, Nicholson said, "I wasn't taken aback. I wasn't surprised. I had no expectations."
Ed Steigerwaldt of Steigerwaldt Land Services declined comment.
Nicolet Minerals paid about $140,000 for the appraisals, officials have said.
page 2 cont...
areas are a walk back in time
By Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal, July 10, 2002
Articles and Statments on proposed Crandon mine site buyout page 2
The Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
Midwest Treaty Network contant page