Rally against Crandon mine in Wisconsin


Over 200 opponents of the Crandon mine on Saturday, October 17, braved a downpour at the State Capitol in Madison, to demonstrate that there is stil more work to be done to stop the mine. They marched to the Department of Natural Resources, demanding that the state agency stop the mine permit process until the mining company, Rio Algom, Ltd., of Toronto, shows one example of a safe metallic sulfide mine, as required under the state's new Mining Moratorium Law.

Mine opponents travelled from around the state; busses and vans came from Shawano, Bowler, and Green Bay. The rally was sponsored by the Wolf Watershed Educational Project (WWEP), which co-founder Zoltan Grossman described as a statewide alliance of Native American nations, sportfishing groups, grassroots environmental organizations, unionists and students. Ladysmith resident and longtime mining opponent Roscoe Churchill put the rally in the context of a three-decade fight to prevent a mining district across northern Wisconsin.

"What a little water among friends?," asked Fran Van Zile, of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Community, whose wild rice beds are one mile downstream from the proposed mine. Fred Ackley and Bill Koenen of Mole Lake also spoke, and related that despite the new law, site testing still coninues, threatening groundwater and adjacent surface waters. Laura Manthe of the Oneida Nation offered support, and Oneida tribal member Barbara Munson read a poem about the Wolf River, a pristine waterway which is also downstream from the proposed mine site.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Garvey spoke on the anti-environmental record of Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. In a nationally televised debate the night before, Garvey pledged that there would "be no Crandon mine" if he is elected. The state media reported taxes and mining as the two major issues in the debate. Garvey has been a pro bono attorney for the new town board in Nashville, which recently rescinded a Local Agreement with the mining company. Town Chairman Chuck Sleeter spoke of the action as one way to stop the mine on the local level, and a way to bring together Indian and non-Indian town residents Speakers also focused attention on three northeastern Wisconsin Assembly races. Len Pubanz, a co-founder of Protect Our Wolf River (POW'R) in Shawano, is one of the Democratic challengers who takes a stance critical of mining and supportive of tribal sovereignty.

White Lake residents George Rock, Robert Schmitz, and Herb Buettner, all sportsmen and leaders of the Wolf River Watershed Alliance, related the history of perseverence of local people in fighting the Crandon mine proposal, and protecting the Wolf River from other threats. The river is classified as a state Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) and is a National Wild and Scenic River in the Menominee Reservation. Rio Algom is proposing "settling ponds" next to a tributary of the Wolf, in order to process the mine wastewater. When mixed with water, sulfides can create sulfuric acid. Nashville resident Tom Ward, Forest County chair of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) questioned the DNR's acceptance of new groundwater standards. WRPC executive secretary Al Gedicks criticized the DNR for dragging its heels in requiring Rio Algom to submit an "example mine" under the moratorium law--open for ten years and closed for ten years without polluting the environment.

Despite the rain, many young people turned out for the rally, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students Meghan Mueller and Angie Gonzalez pointed out that students can play a key role in stopping the mine. In the monthly WWEP meeting following the rally, over 50 participants planned actions to spotlight the mining issue during the election season. They to remind supporters that, no matter who is elected, the fight will continue on many different fronts-- local, state, federal, and tribal--after the election.


    "The increasingly sophisticated political maneuvering by environmental special interest groups have made permitting a mine in Wisconsin an impossibility."
        --From an editorial in North American Mining (a journal of the U.S. and Canadian mining industry; August/September 1998, p. 3)

    The Wolf Watershed Educational Project (WWEP) has announced plans for a statewide rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison on Saturday, October 17, at 1 pm on the State Street steps, to renew the widespread opposition to Rio Algom's proposed Crandon mine. The WWEP is a statewide alliance of environmentalists, Native Americans, sportfishing groups, and unionists founded in 1995, to educate and organize citizens against the threat of metallic sulfide mining.

    Organizers intend the rally as a "wake-up call" to the public, that the Crandon mine proposal is still alive. "We have had so many victories in the past year that some have been lulled into a false sense of security," said Zoltán Grossman, a co-founder of the WWEP and the Midwest Treaty Network. "Despite turning the project over to Rio Algom, Exxon still waits in the wings. Despite making new waste dump proposals, Rio Algom still keeps the Wisconsin River pipeline as an option. Despite the passage of the Moratorium bill, the permitting and site testing process are still going forward unhindered." Dave Blouin, coordinator of the Mining Impact Coalition, added that "Rio Algom has an even worse track record as a mining company than Exxon, in the areas of environmental protection and worker safety."

    The rally and march will demand that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) halt the mine permitting and site testing process until Rio Algom's Nicolet Minerals Company can put forth one "example mine" that successfully meets the criteria of the Moratorium law (operated for ten years and closed for ten years without harming the environment). Grossman asked , "If the failure to find a single safe example would prevent the Crandon mine from receiving a permit in one or two years, why not save time and money by setting an earlier deadline?" Rally participants were urged to bring signs and noisemakers. We can use the people power and donations of many groups !
    Help Needed On October 17 Rally And Potluck
    For more information, contact the Wolf Watershed Educational Project:
    c/o Midwest Treaty Network, P.O. Box 14382, Madison WI 53714-4382 (tax-deductible contributions can be made to "MTN/PC Foundation."). Call the toll-free Hotline at (800) 445-8615; Tel./Fax: (608) 246-2256; e-mail: mtn@igc.org; or log on the web site at http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/wwep.html Also see the Mining Track Record of Rio Algom at http://treaty.indigenousnative.org/rio-trak.html (Another rally will be going on that day at the Capitol, but at a different time).