ARTICLES AND STATEMENTS
on proposed Crandon mine site buyout.

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The
Wolf River
Headwaters
Protection
Purchase

Frances Van Zile

Mole 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.
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ALERT
Write DNR to include Crandon mine site in Land Legacy report

The Wisconsin Land Legacy Report will be a major basis for future land acquisitions by the State. Please write the DNR to mention the 4,800-acre Crandon mine site in the Report as an area of special conservation and recreational value in Forest County, in the headwaters of the Wolf River and upstream from sensitive wetlands, species, and wild rice beds. To help write an e-mail or letter or phone comment, see http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/buyout.html#conservation


Announcing the Release of the Draft Wisconsin Land Legacy Report

This major new report is the result of a study the Department completed, at the Natural Resources Board's request, to identify places that would be critical in meeting Wisconsin's conservation and recreation needs over the next 50 years. The report, which emerged from extensive input over three years from the public and department staff, identifies 228 "Legacy Places." These "Legacy Places" are the special lands and waters that make Wisconsin "Wisconsin."

While the report describes each place in detail, it does not identify how or when Legacy Places should be protected or who should protect them. This report is meant to foster those discussions over time at the local and state level among citizens, government agencies, nonprofit groups, businesses and many other organizations with a stake in these special places.

The draft Wisconsin Land Legacy Report is available in two formats: black-and-white hard copy and compact disk (CD). The report has many full-color maps and figures, which are more difficult to interpret in black-and-white. The CD has all the maps and figures in color. Given the size of the draft report (approximately 230 pages, 11"x17"), it will be much less expensive for the Department to distribute it on CD rather than hard copy. Thus, if you have access to a computer, we encourage you to use the CD. The final report will be published in color.

The public comment period runs through January 24, 2003.

If you are interested in reviewing and commenting on the draft report, you can request a copy as follows:

E-mail: Land.Legacy@dnr.state.wi.us
Phone: (608) 266-0823

Letter:
Land Legacy - LF/4
WI Dept. of Natural Resources
PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921

Web site: Portions of the report are on the Department's web site at: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/master_planning/land_legacy/index.html

 

ACTION ALERT:
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THE WOLF RIVER HEADWATERS PROTECTION PURCHASE

 

1. CONTACT GOVERNOR SCOTT McCALLUM (and his election opponents) to urge that the Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase moves forward on the four principles below.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Offer the mining company a dignified exit from Wisconsin, and enable sustainable development to replace the mine. Call (608) 266-1212, or e-mail wisgov@gov.state.wi.us. Write115 East State Capitol, Madison WI 53702. Send a copy to us, and Natural Resources Board, PO Box 7921, Madison WI 53707 (or NRB members who would vote on the Purchase:)
    Trygve A. Solberg, PO Box 50, Minocqua WI 54548
    Herbert F. Behnke, N5960 Wolf River Road, Shawano WI 54166
    Stephen D. Willett , PO Box 89, Phillips WI 54555
    Catherine L. Stepp, 14520 50th Road, Sturtevant WI 53177
    Gerald M. O'Brien, Box 228, Stevens Point WI 54481
    Howard D. Poulson, PO Box 5550, Madison WI 53705
    James Tiefenthaler, Jr. , W228 N683 Westmound Dr., Waukesha, WI 53186

2. CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS to tell them that their support is crucial for a "public acquisition" of the mine site (following the four principles on pg. 1). Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-362-9472 toll free (even if you don't know your legislators' names). For direct toll-free numbers, see http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/wileg.html [Joint Finance Committee members who would vote on the Purchase: Reps. Gard, Kaufert, Albers, Duff, Ward, Huebsch, Huber, Coggs, and Sens. Decker, Moore, Burke, Shibilski, Plache, Wirch, Darling, and Rosenzweig.]
Write your State Senator: PO Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707
Write Assembly Rep.: Box 8952(last names start with A-L) or Box 8953
(last names start with M-Z) Madison WI 53708
E-mail Sen.(last name)@legis.state.wi.us and Rep.(last name)@legis.state.wi.us

3. CONTACT MEDIA. Write letters to the editor and call radio shows. The Purchase has been resisted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. WMC implies that new taxpayer money would be used, even though the Stewardship Fund has its own allocated $300 million separate from the state budget. Express your support for public acquisition of the Crandon mine site, using a mix of public and private funds stretched over time, and joint management of the site by state, tribal, local and private interests, to permanently safeguard the natural and cultural preservation of the site for future generations.

 

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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.

 

For background:Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/buyout.html

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GOVERNOR SCOTT McCALLUM STATEMENT
ON PROPOSED STATE PURCHASE OF
CRANDON MINE PROPERTY

Thursday, June 20, 2002

The proposal for the state of Wisconsin to purchase all the Nicolet Minerals Company property in the vicinity of the Crandon Mine project is an intriguing idea that deserves further consideration and discussion. It is my intent to meet with the parties involved and begin a meaningful dialogue so that all issues can be addressed. Before making any commitments, I would like a thorough explanation of the environmental consequences and the impacts to the local economy and state budget.

 

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STATEMENT BY DALE ALBERTS,
PRESIDENT OF NICOLET MINERALS COMPANY

June 20, 2002

Nicolet Minerals Company has received a copy of a letter to Governor McCallum, calling on the Company and Governor to begin negotiating an acquisition of the Company's property near Crandon in Forest County.

The Company continues to pursue all necessary state and federal permits to construct and operate a mine at its property.' A Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released in the coming months.' Nicolet Minerals Company continues to believe it has proposed a project that meets all state, federal and local mining laws, while protecting the environmental resources of northern Wisconsin.' The Company's current forecast anticipates having all state and federal permits by the 1st Qtr. 2004.

However, 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, BHPBilliton, and the offer reflects the value of this project to our shareholders.

 

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GOVERNOR SAID HE'LL CONSIDER PROPOSAL
TO BUY CRANDON MINE



By Jenny Price
Associated Press Writer
Published June 20, 2002


Madison, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott McCallum said Thursday he will consider a proposal for the state to buy a mine near Crandon and the surrounding areas in northeastern Wisconsin.

A coalition of conservation groups and tribal governments forwarded their proposal to the governor Wednesday to buy 5, 000 acres that includes the mine.

"We are asking the governor to make sure it happens," Nashville Town Board Chairman Chuck Sleeter said.

Nicolet Minerals, a subsidiary of BHP Billiton, is seeking state and federal permits to remove 55 million tons of zinc and copper ore from the Crandon site located near the headwaters of the Wolf River.

McCallum said he intends to meet with the groups and representatives for Nicolet Minerals before making any commitments. He said he wanted a thorough explanation of the environmental consequences and any impacts to the local economy and to the state budget.

Dave Blouin, with the Sierra Club in Madison, said Thursday the coalition has had informal contact with a Nicolet representative who indicated the company would consider a public purchase of the site. Blouin said he did not know what the price would be, but the purchase could be made with some money from the state' s stewardship fund and private sources.

" Some will ask if this is a buyout or a payoff ... it is not, " Blouin said.

Dale Alberts, president of Nicolet Minerals Co., said the company is continuing to pursue the permits necessary for the mine. The company would consider an offer to buy the land " 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, " he said.

Supporters of the mine contend it will be environmentally safe and provide badly needed jobs. Critics say the mine would pollute the area and jeopardize clean water in the Wolf River.

The regulatory process for the mine' s state permits already has taken seven years.

Earlier this month, state regulators rejected one of three mines that Nicolet submitted as examples of similar mines that have operated pollution free.

The state' s mining moratorium law requires that those seeking permission for new mine projects submit examples of a similar mine that operated for 10 years without environmental problems and one that has been closed for 10 years, also with a clean environmental record.

The Department of Natural Resources determined the Sacaton Mine, an open-pit copper mine near Casa Grande, Ariz., was not an acceptable example to comply with the moratorium law.

History of proposed Crandon mine
http://www.startribune.com/stories/568/2918367.html

 

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Mining firm would consider land sale;
Foes urge public purchase of Crandon site



By Lee Bergquist
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 21, 2002
http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/jun02/52930.asp


Nicolet Minerals Co. said Thursday that it would be willing to sell the land and mineral rights at its proposed mine near Crandon - a move that could end two decades of debate about the project.

But details of any deal were sketchy, with questions going unanswered over who would buy the 5,000-acre parcel and how much it would cost.

A group of environmentalists and Indian tribes that have opposed the project proposed a "public acquisition" of the property that Nicolet wants to use for an underground copper and zinc mine. The most likely buyers would be the state and three tribes that are near the project.

Gov. Scott McCallum called the proposal "intriguing" and said his administration wants to meet with Nicolet to talk.

Nicolet President Dale Alberts said the company would consider selling the property if it was in the best interests of its Australian parent, BHP Billiton Group, and was a good deal for shareholders.

A volatile issue

The Crandon mine has been one of the most contentious environmental issues in Wisconsin in decades - a classic battle pitting economic development against the environment. While Nicolet says it could meet any environmental limits imposed on the company, opponents say they proposed the buyout because, although they believe the project faces an uphill battle from the Department of Natural Resources, they want to ensure that the land will not be purchased by another mining company.

"Simply defeating the mine permit is not enough, unless the land is permanently taken out of the hands of mining companies," said Zoltan Grossman, of the Midwest Treaty Network's Wolf Watershed Educational Project.

Experts said the sale price of the land would hinge on how the value of minerals would be calculated. Although the site has been described as one of North America's richest ore bodies, its value hinges on whether the company could prove that it could pass regulatory approval.

Nicolet wants to recover 55 million tons of copper and zinc, and smaller quantities of lead, silver and gold at the Forest County site. But environmental groups have raised questions about the mine's effect on groundwater and its impact on the surrounding area, including the Wolf River.

The project has been marked by a series of delays and strong public opposition, including the passage of a mining moratorium bill in 1998.

Tribal water standards upheld

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court decision that the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa have the right to raise water quality standards on their reservation in northern Wisconsin so they are higher than the state's.

The mine would be next to the reservation and would use groundwater in its mining process. The decision meant Nicolet would have to return water to the same pristine quality as before it came into contact with the mine.

"That means you are essentially discharging distilled water and we don't believe they could have done it," said Dave Blouin of the Sierra Club.

However, Nicolet said after the decision was announced that it could meet stricter limits set down by the tribe.

Nicolet recently used a go-between to contact environmentalists and the Indians about a possible sale, both sides said, after opponents demanded more than two years ago that the company turn over the land.

Nicolet's overture comes at a time of weak prices for metals and as its parent company has sold off other mining assets.

"I think what happened today caught a lot of people off guard," said DNR Secretary Darrell Bazzell.

Bazzell said he did not get wind of the deal until Wednesday night.

Business group blasts proposal

Several politicians who have been critics of the mine applauded Thursday's developments. But the state's largest business organization was hotly critical.

"The state's only role should be to either approve or reject the permit for the mine," said James S. Haney, president of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. "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 environmentalists should buy the land themselves.

The Sierra Club's Blouin said that private dollars could be part of the acquisition, "but our goal has been to make this a public property from the get-go."

Funding from some Wisconsin Indian tribes is also possible, said Tina Van Zile, vice chairwoman of the Sokaogon.

As outlined by environmentalists and the tribes, the land would be a conservation area, devoted to sustainable land use, tourism and promoting tribal cultural values.

Crandon Mine - Proposed Deal

A coalition of environmental groups and Wisconsin tribes Thursday proposed a public purchase of the 5,000-acre site of a proposed mine in Crandon in northern Wisconsin. If the purchase went forward, it would kill the project after two decades of debate. Nicolet Minerals, which owns the property, says it is open to the idea of selling the land. Gov. Scott McCallum also said he will consider the proposal, although the cost is unknown.

 

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State might buy Crandon mine site



June 21, 2002
Ron Seely Environment reporter,
Wisconsin State Journal
http://www.madison.com/wisconsinstatejournal/local/27899.html


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."

Mine chronology
A history of the proposed mine near Crandon in Forest County:

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.
January 2002: Wausau-based 3rd District Court of Appeals upholds Geske's ruling in dispute over the town of Nashville's local agreement.
June 5, 2002: State regulators reject one of three mines Nicolet submits as examples of similar mines that have operated pollution free.
June 20, 2002: Gov. Scott McCallum said he will consider a proposal for the state to buy a mine near Crandon and the surrounding areas in northeastern Wisconsin.

 

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Groups ask state to buy mine property
Land purchase would stop Crandon mine



By John Dipko
June 21, 2002
Green Bay Press-Gazette
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/news/archive/local_4654344.shtml


Madison -- The battle over a proposed copper and zinc mine in Forest County could be coming to an end.

More than a dozen groups, including environmentalists and American Indian tribes, want the state to buy almost 5,000 acres of property eyed for the mine.

The proposed Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase would thwart plans for the mine and be made possible through a mixture of private and public funds, including the state Stewardship Fund, they said.

They did not know what the price tag would be when they unveiled the proposal Thursday in Madison.

"This purchase is a winning plan for the residents of Wisconsin," said Dave Blouin, mining committee chairman for the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter. "Not only does the purchase end the potential for mining in the Northwoods, but the public and tribes get 5,000 acres of land."

Blouin said the land would be set aside for its conservation and cultural purposes.

Nicolet Minerals Co. President Dave Alberts issued a statement saying the company would consider a purchase offer if it were in the best interests of parent company BHP Billiton, the global mining giant that bought Nicolet Minerals in 2000, and if it reflected the value of the mining project to company shareholders.

Nicolet Minerals is seeking state and federal permits to remove 55 million tons of zinc and copper from the mine, south of Crandon and near the headwaters of the Wolf River.

A state Department of Natural Resources assessment on the environmental impact of the project is expected by the end of the year."

The company continues to pursue all necessary state and federal permits to construct and operate a mine at its property," Alberts said.

The price tag for the land and its mineral rights would be determined through independent appraisals that reflect the fair market value of the land for conservation use and the mineral rights in their undeveloped state, according to a letter the groups sent Thursday to Gov. Scott McCallum and legislative leaders.

The letter asks the governor to direct Administration Secretary George Lightbourn to prepare a letter of intent to buy the site.

McCallum called the proposal an "intriguing idea."

"It is my intent to meet with the parties involved and begin a meaningful dialogue so that all issues can be addressed," he said in a statement. "Before making any commitments, I would like a thorough explanation of the environmental consequences and the impacts to the local economy and the state budget."

The site would be controlled through a partnership of state, local and tribal representatives and provide tribal access for use of the cultural and natural resources, the group's letter said.

"For a thousand years my people have taken seriously their job as stewards of the land, not for what they can get out of it today but what it might bring years down the road," Menominee Indian Tribe Chairman Lisa Waukau said.

BHP Billiton has been divesting itself of its copper assets in recent years, said Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network's Wolf Watershed Educational Project.

The Stewardship Program was created in 1989 to preserve environmentally sensitive areas and expand outdoor recreational opportunities. The DNR uses Stewardship funds to buy or develop property and to make grants to local governments and nonprofit conservation groups.

The largest acquisition through the program was the 32,000-acre purchase called The Great Addition in 1999 in Iron, Oneida, Vilas and Lincoln counties.

A $1.1 billion state deficit threatened to cut back bonding power for the Stewardship Program, but the power was restored fully through a legislative committee compromise earlier this week on it and more than 250 other items.

 

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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.

 

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State mining buy would be unprecedented, expert says



by Robert Imrie
Associated Press
Posted on Sat., Jun. 22, 2002
http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/3522816.htm


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.

 

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Editorial: Crandon mine site may be more valuable untouched



June 26, 2002
Appleton Post-Crescent
http://www.wisinfo.com/postcrescent/news/archive/opinion_4736762.shtml


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.

 

 

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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.

 

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Buy out the Crandon mine



June 29, 2002
http://www.jsonline.com/news/editorials/jun02/55437.asp


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.

 

Sept. 2002   ==============================

 

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...
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Protected natural areas are a walk back in time
By Ron Seely, Wisconsin State Journal, July 10, 2002
http://www.madison.com/wisconsinstatejournal/local/28871.html

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Articles and Statments on proposed Crandon mine site buyout  page 2
The Wolf River Headwaters Protection Purchase
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