|MIDWEST TREATY NETWORK|
Nicolet Minerals Co. names three mines for review under the 1998 mining moratorium law
April 24, 2003
Potawatomi challenge Crandon mine application
Clean Mine Example is Rejected
Published on June 6, 2002
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)
Robert Imrie Associated Press
State regulators rejected one of three mines that a company planning a northern Wisconsin zinc and copper mine submitted as examples of similar mines that have operated pollution free, authorities said Wednesday.
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 rejection of one mine cited by Nicolet Minerals Co. as an example might be a minor setback, but "it certainly doesn't kill the project," said Larry Lynch, a state mining expert in charge of evaluating Nicolet's plan to build the underground zinc and copper mine near Crandon.
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, Lynch said.
"There is simply not enough information from which to draw any conclusion regarding the mining site's performance in the period following closure," Lynch said. "We suspect that it hasn't caused problems but there is no data to show that."
The mine was one of three examples that Nicolet Minerals submitted to comply with the 1997 moratorium law.
The DNR has not made rulings on whether the other two mines Nicolet Minerals submitted to comply with the moratorium law are acceptable, Lynch 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 in northeastern Wisconsin.
Dale Alberts, president of Nicolet Minerals, said the company disagreed with the DNR's decision to reject the Arizona mine.
"We have searched all the monitoring data the state of Arizona has and it clearly demonstrates this has not caused any significant environmental pollution," Alberts said in a telephone interview from Crandon. "We feel it is a valid example to meet the law."
The Cullaton Lake Mine, an underground gold mine in the Northwest Territories of Canada, was submitted as an example of a mine closed for 10 years with no pollution, Alberts said.
The McLaughlin Mine, an open pit copper and gold mine about 70 miles north of San Francisco, was submitted as a mine that has operated for 10 years with no environmental violations, he said.
Black: Crandon mine won't wash;
January 31, 1999
State environmental groups today contended that three example mines submitted on January 5 by Rio Algom, Ltd.'s Nicolet Minerals Co. (NMC) do not meet Wisconsin's Mining Moratorium law's environmental test, and do not prove that there has been a safely operated and closed metallic sulfide mine. The groups say the law is being misused in a way that could potentially allow inappropriate mines to meet the test, and called on DNR to begin public rule-making for the law.
The Mining Moratorium Law, signed by Governor Tommy Thompson last May, asked mining companies to demonstrate that existing technology could safely mine metallic sulfide ores before any new sulfide mines could be built in Wisconsin. NMC has proposed to build a 55-million-ton underground zinc, copper, gold, and silver mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River in northeastern Wisconsin. The groups also released profiles of each of the mines submitted as "examples" for the Moratorium Law. (The profiles are found below in this release. For background on the Moratorium law, see http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/mine-law.html )
The law's author, State Rep. Spencer Black, said that mining companies would be required to offer an example of at least one North American "example mine" that had operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years without causing pollution. The mine not only would have to lack legal citations within its own jurisdiction, but would have to meet Wisconsin standards as if it was located in the state. Black has criticized the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recent decision to accept two mines--one open for 10 years but not closed for 10 years, and the other closed for 10 years but not open for 10 years-- in order to meet the law's criteria.
Shortly after passage of the law, DNR Secretary George Meyer had said rules were necessary to implement the law. Since then, the DNR has reversed its position on rules. "On two major issues associated with this law, the DNR has changed its mind in ways that suit the mining industry," said Blouin. "If Wisconsin citizens were not convinced before of the DNR's pro-mining bias, this should end all doubt." The groups will urge concerned citizens to demand that the Natural Resources Board immediately initiate a public rule-making process.
"There is no question that the public expected to see an example mine that had been both operated and closed cleanly," said Al Gedicks, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. "NMC wants to combine two of its example mines to somehow form one mine. The McLaughlin mine in California has operated for 10 years, but has not yet closed. The Cullaton Lake mine in Canada has been closed for 10 years, but only operated for a short time. NMC's argument for these mines as examples is deeply flawed." Of the three example mines submitted by NMC, only one--the Sacaton mine in Arizona--has both operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years. Zoltan Grossman of the Wolf Watershed Education Project said, "Perhaps NMC officials could forego a Florida vacation this year. Instead they should travel to Death Valley for the warmth, and to Nome, Alaska for the beaches. Together, these two spots meet the criteria of a single trip to the sunny Florida coast."
The environmental groups also point out that the three mines bear no resemblance to NMC's proposed Crandon mine in Forest County. The Crandon mine would be built near clean tributaries of the Wolf River, at a site with hundreds of acres of pristine wetlands, trout streams, pure drinking water, and the Mole Lake Chippewa wild rice beds. Dave Blouin, coordinator of Mining Impact Coalition, observed, "NMC's own data shows that the three example mines are in dry or permafrost areas where the types of water pollution of concern at Crandon are physically impossible. Not one of them operated at a site with the extraordinary amount of water that the Crandon mine would have to keep clean. From a common sense standpoint, the example mines simply do not offer any lessons for us in Wisconsin."
Information on each mine submitted by NMC demonstrates that each of the example mines is smaller, ran for a shorter time, and mined different minerals in different rock than the proposed Crandon underground mine, which has a very different massive sulfide geology. "Rio Algom could not find even one of its own mines that has operated and been reclaimed safely," said Gedicks. None of the three example mines used the proposed technologies of the Crandon mine--such as backfilling the mine shaft with sulfide wastes, the use of liner systems beneath tailings, grouting to reduce water flow, or discharge of treated wastewater into the groundwater.
Zoltán Grossman, of the Wolf Watershed Educational Project, commented that "If Rio Algom was really trying to act like 'good neighbor' it wants to be thought of as, it wouldn't be insulting the intelligence of Wisconsin residents. The company is more interested in getting its Crandon mine permitted than showing realistic examples of operations similar to what it proposes at Crandon. It is clear that Rio Algom cannot find a genuinely safe metallic sulfide mine, unless it bends the law with the DNR's help." He added that environmental groups will continue investigating the environmental safety of the three example mines.
McLAUGHLIN GOLD MINE, CALIFORNIA
CULLATON LAKE GOLD MINE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES
"Mine cited as safe has never been tested"
by Ron Seely, Environmental reporter
Arizona environmental officials say one of the mines cited as non-polluting by a Wisconsin mining company this week has been exempt from that state's ground water regulations since it closed in 1984.
That means regulators can't say whether the closed mine has caused pollution because they haven't checked, officials said.
Nicolet Minerals Co., seeking permits to build an underground zinc and copper mine near Crandon in northeastern Wisconsin, cited Arizona's Sacaton Mine as a mine that meets the requirements of Wisconsin's new mining moratorium law.
Under the law, a company hoping to mine in Wisconsin must submit the name of a similar hard rock mine that has operated for 10 years and has been closed for 10 years without being cited for environmental violations.
This week Nicolet gave the state Department of Natural Resources the names of a gold mine in Northern California, an underground gold mine in the Northwest Territories and the Sacaton Mine in Arizona.
The Sacaton operation was the only one of the three mines submitted that Nicolet said meets both requirements of the moratorium law. Nicolet officials said the open-pit copper mine, south of Phoenix, was not cited for environmental violations during its operation from 1972 to 1984. Nor, the company said, has the mine been cited for violations since it was closed in 1984.
Dale Alberts, public affairs director for Nicolet, said at the time that the company "was pleased to have been able to comply with the toughest test ever put before an industry."
But there is a reason the mine hasn't been cited for violations since it was closed, according to Dennis Turner, aquifer protection mining permit supervisor for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Turner said Friday that the state's Aquifer Protection Program didn't go into effect until 1986. Because the Sacaton Mine closed in 1984, it is exempt from the law, under which mines would be cited for polluting ground water.
"I can't say whether there is any ground water pollution or not," Turner said. "There just isn't enough data. Since it is exempt from the program, we don't have any data to say one direction or another."
Turner said the agency hasn't been monitoring water quality at the site and that the last records on ground water testing are at least 10 years old.
Canadian official says example mine not comparable to Crandon mineMilwaukee Journal Sentinel
Jan. 28, 1999
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A small gold mine in far northern Canada might not answer key questions about the environmental safety of a proposed copper and zinc mine in northern Wisconsin, a Canadian official said. Unlike the Crandon mine, the Cullaton Lake Mine is in an area that has a permanent layer of frozen ground underneath, preventing any environmental damage to ground water, said Philipp DiPizzo, an official with the Canadian Nunavut Territory water board.
That could make it difficult for Nicolet Minerals Co. to follow Wisconsin's "mining moratorium" law and present examples of mines in North America that have operated and been closed for 10 years without polluting the environment, DiPizzo said.
In Wisconsin, environmentalists are concerned about potential ground water pollution around the proposed mine site south of Crandon. The site is near the head waters of the pristine Wolf River.
Nicolet chose the Canadian gold mine as an example because it operated in the northern tundra, an environmentally sensitive area, and was located near many bodies of water, company spokesman Dale Alberts said Wednesday.
The fact that the Canadian mine has a layer of permafrost is incidental, Alberts said.
"The bottom line is some folks will not be happy with any of the examples that we selected," Alberts said.
Nicolet Minerals is seeking state and federal permits to remove 55 million tons of mostly zinc and copper ore from an underground mine.
In order to start the mining project, Nicolet has to meet the "mining moratorium law" and other regulations.
The "mining moratorium" law requires that companies seeking to operate mines in Wisconsin show state officials examples of mines that operated for at least 10 years without polluting lakes, rivers or ground water and were closed 10 years without polluting the environment.
Exploration for the Cullaton mine started in 1976 and the mine was opened in 1981, according to officials at Homestake Canada Inc. which owns the mine.
Nicolet cited the Cullaton Lake Mine as has having been closed 10 years without any significant pollution problem.
Nicolet also has cited the McLaughlin mine, an open pit gold mine near San Francisco, as a mine that has been operating 10 years without any pollution.
*A high school teacher from Hortonville, Wisc., Cliff Morton, took a group of students to the Sacaton mine in Arizona for a class film project. While down at the site on the Gila River Reservation, they noticed a huge building with smaller buildings around it INSIDE the tailings pile area.
They managed to get inside inside, and saw that the entire area had recently been a movie set.The movie was the Gulf War thriller THREE KINGS, with George Clooney and Ice Cube (a great flick...). Apparently some Gila River tribal members were among the "Iraqis" posing in the movie.
The buildings depicted a huge sand palace and outpost of the Iraqi government. The enormous portrait of Saddam Hussein was still on it. Go see the picture: it involves three U.S. soldiers and many Iraqi Shi'ite rebels driving stolen "Kuwaiti" luxury cars all around the area, kicking up lots of dust on the tailings dump. The tailings dump was probably one of the only places near Hollywood where they could find a dusty environment similar to southern Iraq!
Moratorium example mine made actors sick
Asarco's Sacaton copper mine on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona was one of the three "example mines" selected by Rio Algom Ltd. in January 1999 as meeting its interpretation of the requirements for a "safe" metallic sulfide mine under Wisconsin's new Mining Moratorium Law.
The abandoned Sacaton mine site, near Casa Grande, was being used at the same time for the filming of the excellent Gulf War thriller THREE KINGS, starring George Clooney, Ice Cube, and Mark Wahlberg as three U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The enormous mine tailings pile offered filmmaker David O. Russell the only location in North America that evoked the flat and extremely dusty environment of southern Iraq. The desert fortress movie set still stands on the mine tailings management area, complete with a huge portrait of Saddam Hussein.
But the story doesn't stop there. In the November 1999 issue of the Hollywood magazine Premiere, film critic Gregg Goldstein wrote the article entitled "King's Ransom," on the making of the movie. On page 116, he describes how the Sacaton mine wastes may have affected Clooney (ironically of "ER" fame):
...The normally robust star wound up bedridden with bronchitis, which put him out of commission for five days. "For about three weeks, I had this oxygen mask on the set," he says.
Quite a few members of the cast and crew eventually succumbed to illness, which many believe was caused by a mysterious green dust that permeated the location around an abandoned copper mine. "I don't know what they did at this place, because nothing grew -- no insects, no flowers, nothing," says Ice Cube. Wahlberg also fell ill. "I went to the hospital and they stuck an eight-inch needle up my ass," he remembers. "Everybody goes to the hospital to see me, and I've got my pants down and shit. It wasn't fun."
Short-term embarrassment could be the least of his problems. "There'll be a day when we all end up growing an arm out of our forehead," Clooney jokes, demonstrating with a wave. "It'll look good--'How ya doin', man?'"