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BAN CYANIDE at CRANDON MINE

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Action is Sought on Mining Bills;
Proposals Aim at Crandon Operation



Wisconsin State Journal
March 6, 2002
Ron Seely Environment reporter


With the state Legislature's session due to end in two weeks, Assembly Democrats say they will make a last-ditch effort to bring two mining bills to a vote.

The bills are aimed at the proposed zinc and copper mine near Crandon. One, Senate Bill 160, would ban the use of cyanide in mining. The other, Senate Bill 271, would make mining wastes subject to the state's hazardous waste laws. Both were passed by the Senate in November. Now, however, the bills are stuck in the Assembly Environment Committee where Chairman Neal Kedzie, R-town of La Grange, has not scheduled them for a vote. State Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said Monday that he will call for a vote later this week to pull the bills from the committee for action before the Assembly.

Black was presented with petitions signed by more than 16,000 Wisconsin residents asking for passage of the bills. In addition, supporters of the proposed legislation said, dozens of town and county boards have passed resolutions favoring a ban on cyanide.

"Both bills passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support," Black said. "We are going to force a vote on the issue. We are not going to let legislators off the hook. I think it would be a travesty if the tremendous concern of people in Wisconsin is ignored."

Permits to build the mine are being sought by Nicolet Minerals. The company is a subsidiary of the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton of Australia. The company proposes mining 55 million tons of mostly zinc and copper ore from the mine.

Opponents argue that the mine would use as much as 20 tons of cyanide a month to help separate minerals from the ore. Mining opponents cite numerous spills of cyanide and other hazardous substances in recent years at other mines throughout the world. Also, they argue, less toxic alternatives are available.

In addition, mining foes say, the proposed mine should be subject to groundwater and hazardous waste laws that now cover operations such as landfills. For landfills, for example, current groundwater regulations protect the area beyond a 300-foot radius from pollution. Mining wastes, however, can exceed groundwater standards up to 1,200 feet away.

A spokesman for Nicolet Minerals said Monday that the amounts of cyanide proposed for use at the mine are relatively small and that current laws provide adequate protection against spills.

Steve Kircher, a Nicolet spokesman, said precautions taken in shipping the cyanide are substantial.

Kircher added that even the state Department of Natural Resources testified during Senate hearings that mining wastes do not meet the requirements for substances, which are classified as hazardous wastes. As a result, he added, it doesn't make sense to make such wastes subject to the laws that apply to hazardous waste landfills.

 



Assembly Mine Vote Pushed



The Capital Times (Madison)
March 6, 2002


Tribal representatives, sportsmen's groups, environmental leaders and some state legislators are pushing for an Assembly vote on bills that would protect the environment from mining.

During a State Capitol news conference Monday, Assembly Minority Leader Spencer Black, D-Madison, was presented with 16,000 petitions from Wisconsin residents supporting the bills.

Senate Bill 160 would prohibit the use of cyanide in mining, and Senate Bill 271 would extend state hazardous waste and environmental laws to cover mining operations. Both have been approved by the state Senate. Assembly Bill 547 is a companion bill to SB 271. The bills address concerns about a proposed copper and zinc mine near Crandon.

The Forest County Potawatomi, the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, the Wolf Watershed Educational Project, the Wisconsin Stewardship Network and the Fox Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club have launched a widespread campaign for the bills, including many TV ads, citing past spills of hazardous materials including cyanide at mines in other states.

The Assembly Environment Committee has not voted on whether to recommend the bills, which were approved by the Senate in November, to the full Assembly. Committee Chairman Neal Kedzie was not available for comment Monday.

Black says he plans to try to force an Assembly vote.

Additionally, several Fox Valley Republicans are pushing for a vote on the Assembly measure, which would require that mining waste be treated the same as other waste. The mining waste would be subjected to chemical testing with a disposal facility designed and constructed based on the amount of waste generated. The Department of Natural Resources would be barred from granting any exemptions or modifications to the new rules.

"Wisconsin's current mining laws won't adequately protect the water and the land surrounding new mines, like the one proposed in Crandon," said Rep. Terri McCormick, R-Grand Chute, the author of the Assembly bill. Reps. Gregg Underheim and Judy Krawczyk also support the bill, which was the subject of a hearing before the Assembly Environment Committee in February.

George Rock, an organizer for the Wolf Watershed Educational Project from White Lake, Wis., said that -- in addition to the petitions signed by residents -- 10 county governments, 28 local governments, four tribes and 60 groups of various kinds have signed resolutions supporting a ban on cyanide in Wisconsin mines.

A rally in support of the mining bills was set to take place at noon today at the King Street entrance to the Capitol.

 



Why do legislators oppose the voters?



By Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle 2/27/02
http://www.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?dbase=gbnc&article=112822


How does it happen that so many times our legislators, the Public Service Commission, federal and state agencies and the judiciary seem to take the side of big business, no matter how smarmy the details?

Am I getting a skewed view of these things or do we all have a problem with the balance of justice?

Recently, the Wisconsin State Appeals Court upheld a reeking 1996 agreement between the town of Nashville and Crandon Mining Co. (now Nicolet Minerals), a subsidiary of BHP Billiton, of London. The agreement between the Town Board and Crandon Mining Company granted permission to mine in the town of Nashville if and when permits were granted by the state. In trade for the agreement, Nicolet promised to pay the town nearly $500,000 and to set aside some jobs for locals. I imagine they will need some $6-per-hour gate guards.

A small fraction of folks in the town of Nashville were in favor of the agreement, though the Town Board was in favor. How does that happen? One can only wonder if there was some incentive for the Town Board to oppose the wishes of the citizens that elected them.

Here's how it went down. A town meeting was held in early December 1996. Citizens had questions about the agreement but were told by the town chairman that all questions would be answered at the public hearing the following week. Citizens questioned the Town Board, since hearings are usually not for asking questions, but for making statements. They were assured they would be heard. At the hearing, they were told, "No questions."

The chairman opened the town meeting, stated the mine agreement was a great deal for the town, and asked for a motion to accept the agreement. It was quickly seconded and approved and with that, the meeting was adjourned, a violation of town rules and Robert's Rules of Order. The chairman has no right to close a meeting without a motion by town citizens. Citizens present protested this violation to no avail.

It took a recall election to remove all but one of the old board. The old board later admitted to 50 separate violations of open meetings laws. The mining agreement terms were hammered out in private ... no public participation. The public was not notified of the hearings or meetings. Crandon Mining Co. bused in out-of-area people to speak in favor of the mine agreement. More of the "local control" conservatives tell us all about?

During the next election, the old board challenged the new board. With almost every eligible voter going to the polls, all of the old board was soundly defeated. The old board locked the new board out of the town hall for three weeks. When the new board finally got in the office, they found that the old board had written a check in the interim for $390,000 to the former town attorney, Kevin Lyons, for getting the agreement signed. The three-week delay allowed the check to clear the bank.

Somehow, both the state circuit court and the appeals court found this putrefying collection of violations to be on the level of a boys-will-be-boys panty raid. "Tut-tut," they said. "Stinko," sez I. The town of Nashville will take this case to the state Supreme Court.

 

 



Mining firms get too much leeway, engineer says



Associated Press
Feb. 19, 2002
http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/feb02/21662.asp


Madison - Mining companies have received special treatment under Wisconsin's regulations for hazardous waste and groundwater quality, an environmental engineer said Tuesday.

Robert Ham, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said legislators should pass a law barring the state Department of Natural Resources from exempting mining companies from those rules.

"Mining waste should be treated exactly the same as other waste," Ham told the Assembly Environment Committee.

Current law allows the DNR to exempt mining companies as long as the exemption doesn't violate state or federal law or pose a threat to public health, safety or the environment.

The bill would require state officials to regulate the byproducts of mining, processing and refining ores and minerals as hazardous waste, if they have the characteristics of hazardous waste.

 



Environmental fears resurface over plan

Mine opponents hold their ground at informational Appleton forum



By Ed Culhane
Appleton Post-Crescent staff writer
Jan. 15, 2002
http://www.wisinfo.com/postcrescent/news/archive/local_2000752.shtml


Environmentalists fighting the proposed underground zinc and copper mine near Crandon are turning up the heat on state representatives to pass two mine-related bills already approved by the state Senate.

More than 80 people, including three Republican state representatives, braved icy roads Monday evening to attend an informational meeting in Appleton on mine issues sponsored by the Wisconsin Stewardship Network, a statewide coalition of environmental groups and hunting and fishing organizations.

The coalition is lobbying for passage of Senate Bill 160, which would ban the use of sodium cyanide in mining operations in Wisconsin, and Senate Bill 271, which would hold the mine industry to the same groundwater quality standards and solid waste disposal rules imposed on other industries.

A March 14 deadline for action by the Assembly imparted a sense of urgency to the meeting, and there were frequent requests for calls and letters to elected officials.

"We need these laws to protect us," said George Reif of Shawano, speaking from the audience. "It is time for we the people to run our own country and for we the people to police the mine companies."

Monday�s forum was attended by GOP state Reps. Dean Kaufert of Neenah, Terri McCormick of Grand Chute, and Judy Krawczyk of Green Bay. McCormick and Krawczyk, co-sponsors of Senate Bill 271, and its companion, Assembly Bill 547.

There were no representatives of the mining company or the state Department of Natural Resources at the meeting.

McCormick said the need to protect the Wolf River watershed crossed partisan lines.

"This is not a Republican issue and it is not a Democratic issue," she said. "It affects all of us."

Krawczyk said she is not against mining. "This isn�t about banning a business," Krawczyk said. "This is about safeguarding the land."

A key speaker was Douglas Hambley, a mining consultant hired by the Forest County Potawatomi tribe, whose lands lie just east of the proposed mine. Hambley, a hydrologist who worked in mines as a young man, is evaluating the proposal by Nicolet Minerals, a BHP Billiton company, to extract 55 million tons of ore from a below-ground mineral deposit, 4,900 feet long, 2,200 feet deep and 100 feet wide.

Supporters say the project can be done safely while providing hundreds of badly needed jobs in Forest County. Critics say the mine would remain a threat for thousands of years after it was closed.

Hambley said the three risks are the proposed use of cyanide (to separate metals from crushed rock in flotation tanks), the construction of a 282-acre tailings management area with 90-foot-high earthen walls and the possibility of acid runoff from pyrite in crushed rock.

Hambley discounted company claims that cyanide in waste rock would be destroyed by sunlight hitting the massive tailings pond. He said northern Wisconsin�s colder climate would inhibit that reaction.Environmentalists also worry about cyanide transportation spills in a rural environment where an emergency response might come too late.

Nor is cyanide necessary, Hambley said. There are other methods that are far less dangerous, he said.

Kaufert said he trusted the DNR experts working on the mine permit, but he also encouraged those attending to lobby for legislation. Kaufert said the bills must move out of committee in standard fashion to stand any chance on the floor off the Assembly. Votes on bills that are "pulled" out of committee always fail, he said.

This puts the spotlight on state Rep. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, chairman of the Assembly's Environmental Committee, who has not yet scheduled a public hearing on either bill.


Ed Culhane can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or by e-mail at eculhane@appleton.gannett.com.

 



Environmental group criticizes track record of mining company



Green Bay News-Chronicle
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
By Robert Imrie
Associated Press


It researched three mines owned by the Crandon facility's parent company

An environmental group opposed to an underground zinc and copper mine in northern Wisconsin said Monday the owners of the mine were responsible for 31 spills of hazardous materials over four years in Arizona and Nevada.

The Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin researched spills at three mostly copper mines owned by BHP Billiton, the parent company of Nicolet Minerals Co., which wants to develop a mine near Crandon.

Nicolet Minerals is seeking state, federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of zinc and copper ore. Between 1996 and 2000, the coalition said state and federal records document spills of sodium cyanide, mine waste tailings, sulfuric acid, wastewater with arsenic and dust at Pinto Valley Mine in Miami, Ariz.; San Manuel Mine in San Manuel, Ariz.; and Robinson Mine, in Ruth, Nev.

All but four of the spills occurred at San Manuel, the records show. Dave Blouin, coordinator of the Mining Impact Coalition, said the research points out the potential for environmental problems at the Crandon mine.

"Nicolet Minerals has never operated a mine. But its parents have, and one of its parents, BHP, in a four-year span at three mines in the United States seems to be a chronic polluter," Blouin said.

Dale Alberts, a spokesman for Nicolet Minerals, said chemical spills are not unusual at any large-scale industrial activity, including paper mills.

"I see small spills of sulfuric acid," he said, referring to the list of incidents at the Arizona and Nevada mines. "I bet if you focused on one paper company that used sulfuric acid, you will find a similar record or worse."

The spills of sulfuric acid on the list researched by the Mining Impact Coalition ranged from 140 gallons to 5,000 gallons.

Users of hazardous materials must have plans to deal quickly with spills, as will the mine, which would use a dozen or more industrial chemicals in its operation, Alberts said. Blouin's group "overstates everything" and only tells half the truth, Alberts said.

"It is part of their overall strategy to put pressure on the Legislature to pass more anti-mining legislation. They want to fan the rhetorical and emotional flames against mining," Alberts said.

Michelle Robertson, manager of the water permit section of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said it was not unusual for mining companies to have some chemical spills.

She refused to characterize the environmental record of the mines in her state without doing more detailed research. The agency's hazardous materials incident log shows that in 1997, a waste tailings pile at Pinto Valley failed, spilling about 100,000 tons of material.

Blouin said the mining company was fined $558,000 and was forced to clean out a stretch of Pinto Creek. The Mining Impact Coalition did not document if any environmental damage was caused by any other spills.

Jeff Parker, an environmental manager for the three mines owned by BHP Copper in Arizona and Nevada, did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Monday.

Mining at the three mines stopped in 1999, although some ore processing continues, a receptionist at the company's office in Tucson, Ariz., said.

Critics believe toxic chemicals from Nicolet Minerals' proposed mine will damage the environment and jeopardize water quality in the area, which is the headwaters for the Wolf River.

Supporters say the mine can operate safely without harming the environment and provide badly needed jobs in Forest County. The mine would create 400 jobs over its 35-year life and another 300 during construction.

The state Department of Natural Resources is expected to release its recommendations on the project by May, Alberts said Monday.

Larry Lynch, a DNR mining regulator involved in the study of the Nicolet Minerals project, did not immediately return a telephone message Monday for comment on the environmental track record of BHP Billiton.

Blouin said the mines in Arizona and Nevada - two are open pits mines and one is an underground mine - are the only hard-rock mines owned by BHP Billiton in the United States.

Before its merger, BHP was based in Australia and Billiton had headquarters in South Africa and the United Kingdom.


On the Net: Nicolet Minerals Co.: http://www.crandonmine.com
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality: http://www.adeq.state.az.us/environ/waste/hazwaste/hwssearch/html.

 



Mine foes lobby for support of bills



Appleton Post-Crescent
Jan. 13, 2002


Environmentalists fighting the proposed zinc and copper mine near Crandon are calling on hunters and fishermen. They want outdoor enthusiasts to lobby for two pieces of legislation that face a March 14 deadline in the Wisconsin Legislature.

The two bills have passed the Senate and are now in the Assembly, assigned to the Environmental Committee chaired by state Rep. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn.

One, SB160, would ban the use of cyanide in Wisconsin mines. It is co-sponsored by state Reps. Terri McCormick, R-Grand Chute, and Judy Krawczyk, R-Green Bay.

The second, SB271, would eliminate the exemption of mining activities from state groundwater quality standards and waste disposal rules.

A big challenge will be to get the bills out of committee and before the Assembly, said George Rock, a longtime opponent of the proposed mine at Crandon, which would be located near the headwaters of the Wolf River.

"We are asking people in the Valley to call their representatives to put pressure on Kedzie, to ask him to hold public hearings and a vote on the two bills sent to him," Rock said. Cyanide is used in mining to separate metals from crushed rock in vats of water.

Environmentalists argue the use of the poisonous chemical is unnecessary because safer and less expensive alternatives exist.

An expert from the mining industry on the use of cyanide is expected to speak at the meeting, Rock said. Interested persons can contact Jim Wise at 715-453-6015 or Tom Deer at 920-725-6077.

 


 

Cyanide's not as safe as Lasee might think



By Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle, Dec. 5, 2001
http://www.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?article=111275


I would like to respond to the Nov. 14 letter from state Sen. Alan Lasee, R-Rockland, in which he referred to the efforts to pass a bill that would ban cyanide from mining operations in Wisconsin as a "smokescreen."

One can visit www.wienvdecade.org to find that Sen. Lasee is at the bottom when it comes to voting in an environmentally friendly way. In the Wisconsin Senate 1995-96 voting record, Lasee got an F for environmental support, voting only for the moth-eaten rag that was left of the mining moratorium bill from its original form.

Lasee stated, "If they want to ban mining in Wisconsin, introduce and debate a bill to do it, without the smokescreen." Lasee would be the expert in recognizing a smokescreen.

We tried the idea of introducing a bill and debating it. Lasee and his Republican brethren pounded the stuffing out of the mining moratorium bill. They twisted the language so that the wording appears to state that two different mines would be able to meet the criteria of not polluting for 10 years. The initial bill called for one mine to meet both criteria.

The deception stunk up the state and put a blemish on what used to be called our "squeaky-clean" government. Lasee's party then fed this remnant to the public as though it was the same bill. This is a real smokescreen.

Environmentalists don't use smokescreens. Mining opponents have stated many times that they will use every possible opportunity to stop the Crandon mine. We come right out and tell you. We are doing nothing to be ashamed of. They are.

As for foods containing cyanide, Lasee's apples-to-oranges examples are junk science. The cyanide compounds in foods, being bound up with different organics in various plants, easily pass through the human body.

Lasee states that coffee has "6 parts per million (ppm) cyanide." If we drank coffee with 6 ppm SODIUM CYANIDE, we would die. Twenty parts per BILLION sodium cyanide can kill fish. A half-teaspoon of a 2 percent solution can kill a full-grown human. That's an amount the size of a single grain of rice.

Apparently Lasee will believe anything the mining lobby says, no matter how specious. This is important to consider when OUR HEALTH and certainly a good part of our spirit is in the lurch.

Lasee states that the bill to ban cyanide in mining is a "phony attempt to prevent mining in our state through the use of scare tactics by mining opponents." He claims there have been no spills of cyanide. The Federal Emergency Response Notification System database lists 12 highway spills of sodium cyanide of 100 lbs. or more between 1987 and 1996.

Since there are no industries north of Green Bay that use cyanide now, any handlers from outside our area could have trouble. It is one thing to run a truck on well-maintained, four-lane roads in good weather and another thing altogether on hilly, curvy, icy two-lane country roads with daredevil deer darting out at the most inopportune times.

Why is Mr. Lasee unwilling to recognize the damage done already by accidents and slipshod mining practices all over the planet? Warning people that they are in danger is not a scare tactic. It's called "common decency."

 


 

Report: More recycling would be good
for economy and better than mining



Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Nov. 28, 2001
http://www.jsonline.com/WI/112801/wi--recycling11280173138.asp


MADISON, Wis. (AP) - More recycling would be good for jobs and the environment and a better alternative to mining, according to a report by an environmental group released Tuesday.

The report, "A Penny Saved," examines the viability of using more recycled metal to meet the state's copper and zinc needs.

"Instead of opening dangerous new mines, let's use what we have first," said the report's author, Claire Schmidt of Wisconsin's Environmental Decade.

Zinc prices are at an all-time low worldwide and thousands of tons of zinc have not been sold, Schmidt said.

In 1996, the United States recycling industry employed 10 times as many workers as the nation's metallic mining, according to a study by the World Watch Institute.

A study done for the Wisconsin Recycling Market Development Board says direct recycling provides Wisconsin with 30,976 jobs.

Recycling jobs are permanent unlike mining jobs, which end once the mine is closed, Wisconsin's Environmental Decade's report says.

The economic benefits from increased recycling are a contrast to mining dangers, including toxic spills, dangerous surface and ground water pollution from acid and heavy metal leakage, air pollution and millions of tons of hazardous waste, the report says.


FOR A REPORT, CONTACT:
Wisconsin's Environmental Decade
122 State Street, Suite 200
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 251-7020 phone
(608) 251-1655 fax
E-mail decade@chorus.net Web http://www.wienvdecade.org


 


 

Applying the lesson of PCBs to Crandon and the Wolf



Appleton Post-Crescent
Nov. 11, 2001


The debate might be quite different if the zinc, copper, lead and precious metals found decades ago near Crandon were somewhere else. The environmental sensitivity and uniqueness of the headwaters of the magnificent Wolf River inspire remarkably intense fear and staunch opposition to the proposed mine, even in far corners of Wisconsin.

From the outset in the 1970s, the mine has been a battleground between those who are convinced it can operate without harming the environment and those who are certain it would be a disaster in the making.

The state's mining regulations were rewritten for heightened safety. That was not enough for the opposition.

Legislators imposed a "moratorium'' on licensing the mine until proof was produced that mines like it had been operated and reclaimed without environmental damage. That was not enough.

Now the Legislature faces two more bills inspired by the Crandon deposits. One would remove authority for the Department of Natural Resources to regulate mining waste differently from other toxic waste. The more widely and emotionally debated bill prohibits using cyanide to process the ore.

The old arguments of absolute safety vs. certain disaster are repeated.

Defenders insist waste will contain no more cyanide than coffee or drinking water. Opponents declare that any amount of cyanide endangers life in and near the water and that transporting truck and train loads of cyanide to the mine is a huge gamble itself.

The state Senate passed both bills 19-14. Democrats dominate that body and tend to oppose the mine. Republicans are more sympathetic to mining and they run the Assembly where the fate of the legislation is uncertain.

Fox Valley Republican Sens. Mike Ellis of Neenah and Robert Cowles of Green Bay supported the cyanide ban. Ellis's district includes much of the Wolf and Fox Rivers and shores of their lakes. Cowles represents the Lower Fox River area from Kimberly to Green Bay. They represent hosts of fishing, hunting and other nature enthusiasts who fear cyanide getting loose in the marshes where the Wolf begins.

Credit Ellis and Cowles for wise caution. Arguments on both sides sound impressive, but how is a layperson to judge? Just as pertinent, who knows the future?

When polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs were used in carbonless paper decades ago, who could predict they would become a major hazardous pollutant in the Fox River, resulting ironically from the environmentally heralded practice of recycling of carbonless paper?

We know cyanide is a poison. We can't predict how it might escape. But we should have learned something about unpredictability from PCBs.

 

 


 

State Senate approves ban on cyanide in mining

Hansen says a related groundwater bill closes a "1,050-foot loophole"


Nov. 7, 2001
Green Bay News Chronicle
http://www.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?article=110746


MADISON - Miners would no longer be allowed to use cyanide under legislation the Senate passed Tuesday, a move some hope would help kill plans for an underground zinc and copper mine near Crandon.

The Senate voted 19-14 to prohibit the use of cyanide and cyanide compounds in mining for metallic minerals and processing metallic ore. The Assembly and governor must still approve the measure before it can become law.

All 18 Democrats in the Senate and Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Allouez, voted for the measure. Senator Alan Lasee, R-Rockland, voted against the bill.

"Based on my limited knowledge on the subject, every Wisconsin citizen has cyanide in their food," Lasee said. "The most cyanide can be found in road salt, 350 parts per million. Why don't we close that down instead?"

Also passed was legislation that would require metallic mining operations to adhere to the same limits that are placed on landfills and other waste sites.

State Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, who co-authored the bill, said landfills currently must meet groundwater standards within 150 feet from the site, but groundwater standards for metallic mines are given 1,200-foot radius.

"Having a majority of my colleagues in the Senate agree with me on the importance of this bill puts us very close to closing a 1,050-foot-wide loophole in state law," Hansen said.

"We ought to have strict standards in place when it comes to mining in Wisconsin," said Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, who sponsored the cyanide bill. "It's not only for us now but for future generations."

Nicolet Minerals Co., a subsidiary of London-based Billiton Plc, has proposed using a water-based cyanide solution in the planned Crandon mine.

The company has said environmentalists are trying to frighten lawmakers into passing a ban that isn't needed to protect the area or keep pollution from the nearby Wolf River.

There have been cyanide spills at mines that use open-pit mining methods. Ore is piled into a heap and sprayed with a cyanide solution that separates the metal from the rocks. The solution is recovered at the bottom of the heap and then piped through a process that separates the metals from cyanide.

Crandon would not have open pits. Instead, it would use an indoor facility where ore would be treated in a water-based cyanide solution.

Once the mineral has been collected, bubbles from an agitator would lift the mineral to the top of the tank as froth, where it would be removed. Nicolet plans to build the mining facility to contain any chemical spills.

Nicolet president Dale Albers said the mine is particularly needed because of the economic slowdown affecting the country. He said the mine would create 400 jobs over its 35-year life and another 300 during construction.

Albers said the company expects regulatory approval of the mines by late 2003 and would begin construction the following year.

He said the proposed mine does not pose a serious threat to the environment and the bill was based on unfounded fears.

"It's not based in fact or science," Albers said.

Harold "Gus" Frank, chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, praised the Senate for its courage in fighting to protect lakes, rivers and streams.

"Preservation of our land, water and air is as important as life itself," Frank said in a statement. "This is a new day for Wisconsin's environment."

His tribe has long opposed the project, as has the Sokaogon, or Mole Lake, Chippewa band whose reservation is near the proposed mine site south of Crandon.

The Sokaogon band has been granted full authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate water quality on its reservation downstream from the proposed mine. The state is appealing a ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upholding the EPA's decision.

Albers said opponents have exaggerated the mine's threat to the environment, including the Wolf River, one of the state's most scenic rivers. An indoor facility would be built where ore would be treated in a water-based cyanide solution. Safety measures would be implemented to contain any chemical spills, Albers said.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, voted against the bill, saying it was not a genuine effort to safeguard the environment from cyanide. He said dozens of other Wisconsin businesses use the toxin on a daily basis.

"What this initiative is designed to do is shut down one mine in Wisconsin," Schultz said. "But let me tell you, if we do it today, what is not to make any members of the business community believe they are next tomorrow?"

But Caryl Terrell, legislative coordinator for the Sierra Club of Wisconsin, said using cyanide in the mining process poses a particular risk to the environment.

"We really have to draw the line on what kind of chemicals we think would be safe in a mining situation," she said. Jennifer Larsen contributed to this report.

 

 

Senate approves ban on cyanide in mining



By JR Ross
Associated Press
November 6, 2001
http://www.startribune.com/stories/568/810464.html


MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Mining companies would no longer be allowed to use cyanide under legislation the Senate passed Tuesday, a move some hope would help kill plans for an underground zinc and copper mine near Crandon.

The Senate, which approved the bill 19-14, also voted to ban the state Department of Natural Resources from giving mines exemptions from Wisconsin' s rules regulating the storage and disposal of solid and hazardous waste.

The Assembly and governor must still approve the measures before they can become law.

" We ought to have strict standards in place when it comes to mining in Wisconsin, " said Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, who sponsored the cyanide bill. " It' s not only for us now but for future generations."

Nicolet Minerals Co. is still awaiting state, federal and local permits to mine 55 tons zinc and copper ore in northern Wisconsin. Environmentalists oppose the mine, believing toxic chemicals from it will damage the environment.

Nicolet president Dale Albers said the mine is particularly needed because of the economic slowdown affecting the country. He said the mine would create 400 jobs over its 35-year life and another 300 during construction.

Albers said the company expects regulatory approval of the mines by late 2003 and would begin construction the following year.

He said the proposed mine does not pose a serious threat to the environment and the bill was based on unfounded fears.

"It' s not based in fact or science," Albers said.

Harold "Gus" Frank, chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe, praised the Senate for its courage in fighting to protect lakes, rivers and streams.

"Preservation of our land, water and air is as important as life itself," Frank said in a statement. "This is a new day for Wisconsin' s environment."

His tribe has long opposed the project, as has the Sokaogon, or Mole Lake, Chippewa band whose reservation is near the proposed mine site south of Crandon.

The Sokaogon band has been granted full authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate water quality on its reservation downstream from the proposed mine. The state is appealing a ruling by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upholding the EPA' s decision.

Albers said opponents have exaggerated the mine' s threat to the environment, including the Wolf River, one of the state' s most scenic rivers. An indoor facility would be built where ore would be treated in a water-based cyanide solution. Safety measures would be implemented to contain any chemical spills, Albers said.

There have been cyanide spills at mines that use open-pit mining methods. Ore is piled into a heap and sprayed with a cyanide solution that separates the metal from the rocks. The solution is recovered at the bottom of the heap and then piped through a process that separates the metals from cyanide.

Crandon would not have open pits.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, voted against the bill, saying it was not a genuine effort to safeguard the environment from cyanide. He said dozens of other Wisconsin businesses use the toxin on a daily basis.

"What this initiative is designed to do is shut down one mine in Wisconsin, " Schultz said. "But let me tell you, if we do it today, what is not to make any members of the business community believe they are next tomorrow?"

But Caryl Terrell, legislative coordinator for the Sierra Club of Wisconsin, said using cyanide in the mining process poses a particular risk to the environment.

"We really have to draw the line on what kind of chemicals we think would be safe in a mining situation," she said.

The bills are SB 160 and SB 271.

 


Proposed ban on cyanide could paralyze mine plan; Chemical used to process ore


Oct. 28, 2001
by Cliff Miller
For the Green Bay Press-Gazette
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/news/archive/local_1412256.shtml


MADISON � If opponents of a proposed zinc, lead and copper mine at Crandon have been looking for the poison that could kill the project, cyanide may be their answer. But death would come not by administering the potentially lethal chemical but by depriving mine operators of its use, said a state regulatory official.

�From what I have learned in talking with various metallurgists, yes,� Larry Lynch, a Department of Natural Resources waste management officer, said about the possibility of such a ban burying the project.

The proposed ban, which would apply to any mine in the state, has support from some legislators and a host of others who see the mine as a threat to the Wolf River, its downstream watershed and the Forest County environment.

�Cyanide is the cheapest method (to process ore), but it is also the most environmentally dangerous,� said state Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison. �(The mining company) wants to put Wisconsin�s environment at risk in order to boost its profits.�

Dale Albers, president of Nicolet Minerals Co., the subsidiary firm that would operate the mine, accused opponents of conspiring to ban mining entirely. �They�re just trying to stop the mine. This (cyanide ban) is just another way to try to steal our project from us.�

The proposed ban has stirred emotional support from American Indian tribes, fishing and hunting enthusiasts, conservation and environmental groups, local governments and others.

They fear a major environmental disaster either from hauling up to 200 tons of cyanide per year through the state to the mine site or from a failure of control measures at the site.

One major accident, they warn, could threaten local underground drinking water and the surface waters, fish and wildlife of the entire Wolf River, downstream lakes and the Fox River.

Mine developers, however, promise that cyanide residue left after its use � in separating three main metals from ore � would be weaker than concentrations found in coffee or road salt.

It would be contained in a disposal pond 90 feet deep and the size of 200 football fields where the chemical would degrade to a harmless state.

Spokesmen for both sides stopped short of saying a cyanide ban would kill the project.

Albers said prohibiting cyanide �would make it extremely difficult� to process the ore.

He said about 11 chemical combinations were tested and cyanide proved to be the most efficient and economical.

Black insisted other chemicals work without the extreme environmental dangers.

He and Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, are sponsoring identical bills in their houses. They said three mines in Canada use other chemicals. Two mines combine sulfur dioxide and starch, which are much less toxic than cyanide, can be used in smaller amounts and cost less, they said.

Decker expects his bill to come before the Senate in the coming two weeks. There has been no Assembly action on either bill.

The DNR�s Lynch, who is reviewing applications for permits to open and run the Crandon mine, said opponents are correct that other chemicals can be used.

But, he said, they don�t work well in the Crandon mine�s planned processing system, known as flotation.

 


MINE OPPONENTS RALLY TO
SUPPORT PASSAGE OF CYANIDE BAN



By Ron Seely
Wisconsin State Journal
October 14, 2001


Opponents of a proposed zinc and copper mine in northern Wisconsin gathered in the drizzle Saturday to urge passage of a bill that would ban the use of cyanide at such mines.

About 50 people turned out to support the proposed legislation, which is expected to be taken up by the state Legislature this month. The cyanide would be used at the proposed mine near Crandon in Forest County to separate minerals from the mined ore.

Opponents say the cyanide poses a threat to communities along transportation routes and the environment. About 15,000 signatures have been gathered on a petition supporting the cyanide ban.

Officials with Nicolet Minerals, the subsidiary of mining giant BHP Billiton, which is developing the mine, oppose the ban and say the amounts of cyanide used in the separation process are so small they don't pose a threat. Mining offcials also say many other industries in the state use cyanide.

But Dave Blouin with the Mining Impact Coalition said 200 tons a year would be hauled to the mine.

"This is not only a hazard as it is transported," Blouin told those gathered at the state Capitol, "it's also a hazard stored as wastes for the long term."

Blouin also said cyanide use by other industries in Wisconsin is not on the same scale as the use proposed for the Crandon mine. He said records from the National Toxic Release Inventory show the largest use by any other industry is 24 tons a year.

Zoltán Grossman with the Wolf Watershed Educational Project said legislation to protect against transportation of something like cyanide is necessary, especially at a time when there is heightened concern about any hazardous or potentially dangerous materials.

 

RALLY SUPPORTS BAN ON CYANIDE:
Crandon mine can do without the chemical,
group at Capitol says


By Kevin Murphy
Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Oct. 14, 2001.


Madison - Rains diminished their numbers but not their passion as about 40 sportsmen, students and American Indians rallied Saturday at the state Capitol in support of legislation to ban cyanide in mining.

Saturday's rally was the culmination of a yearlong effort to raise public support for Senate Bill 160, which mining opponents say would stop a proposed zinc-copper mine near Crandon from using up to 200 tons of sodium cyanide a year in ore processing.

"There is no reason for the mining industry to use cyanide or to use it in that quantity," said Zoltan Grossman, a rally organizer.

Cyanide is extremely toxic to humans and wildlife, and if it were to leak from the Nicolet Minerals Co. mine it would devastate all the life that depends on the Wolf River, said Grossman.

Fred Ackley, of the Mole Lake Chippewa, said transportation and storage of cyanide would present terrorists with an opportunity to attack Forest County, in northeast Wisconsin.

Nicolet Minerals has alternatives to cyanide but chooses it because it's the cheapest, said Dave Blouin, of the Mining Impact Coalition.

Montana, a state with a long history of mining, has banned cyanide use, Blouin said.

The Senate Environmental Resources Committee approved the bill earlier this year. Backers will seek a vote in the full Senate this month, Blouin said.

Nicolet Minerals President Dale Alberts said the mine would use 84 tons of cyanide a year, which would be largely consumed in the process that separates zinc from copper. Cyanide would not be detectable in the wastewater or leftover ore generated by the mining operation, Alberts said in condemning the legislation.

"There's no technical or environmental merit to the bill. The proponents have seized on the use of one chemical in an attempt to frighten people, but sodium cyanide is widely used in industrial processes all over the state, without causing harm," Alberts said in a phone interview Saturday.

Alberts disagreed that alternative chemicals would work on the ore from the Crandon mine. He said extensive testing showed that sodium cyanide was the most effective and economic chemical to use.

 



Lawmakers Ignore Public on Cyanide Ban



By Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle
http://www.greenbaynewschron.com/page.html?article=109118


The old environmental nemesis, the Crandon mine, is back in the news.

Once again, it is because of state citizens' concerns about pollution, this time from possible cyanide spills and leaks.

Nicolet Minerals Co. has been owned by Exxon, then Rio Algom and now Billiton (the shell game from hell that keeps us guessing!). Nicolet Minerals public affairs director Dale Alberts is saying that cyanide use and transport is not dangerous. Here is my imagined conversation with Alberts, a big shot at Billiton and one of their minions.

ALBERTS: Holy Cats! Those damned environmentalists found out about the cyanide! What are we going to do now? This will bring back my facial tic for sure!

MINION: OK, we have to come up with some phrase that keeps the press from snooping around. Can we say there have been no accidents involving the transportation of cyanide?

BILLITON: Well, not really. There was that bad one in Kyrgyzstan in 1998 that spilled two tons of cyanide into local waters. There was also that helicopter crash in Papua New Guinea that released some cyanide. Oh, there was also that accident near Lead, S.D., last April, where a truck carrying liquid sodium cyanide ran off U.S. 85.

The driver of the truck was drunk. So we can't say there have been "no accidents," but we could say that there has been no "environmental release" of cyanide from a transportation accident nearby. We have to remember to say "nearby."

ALBERTS: OK, can do. Is there anything else I have to tell them or avoid telling them?

BILLITON: Whatever you do, do NOT mention the spills, the leaks or the mining waste all over the planet. Avoid any discussion of it. We'll have a spill sooner or later, but we have to avoid discussing it. Talk instead of how important mining is to the region.

MINION: That's right. Remind them about the use of metals. Claim that our defense will be compromised if we don't have metals. That always rattles the Nervous Nellies.

Surely we rely on metals. Perish the thought that we would run short in our strategic need for eyebrow and nose rings. If we really paid attention to recycling, as they do in Germany, we would have less need for ripping up the Earth as often. Think of all the electronic devices and metals that make their way to a landfill instead of a recycling yard.

It's a shame that Mr. Alberts does not want to discuss all the facts about a subject that he is trying to ram down our throats. In spite of all the accidents, in spite of heaps of evidence that the Crandon mine will ruin the Wolf River and the economy along it, we still have many Republican legislators who insist that the mine must go in "to bring in jobs" or "to provide economic stimulus to the north woods."

Ptooey! Why aren't Republican legislators following the will of their constituents?

The Crandon mine is why campaign finance reform is needed. Either these Republicans are stupid, or they are returning favors for donations to their campaign chests, either directly or indirectly through soft money. We need this ban on cyanide. We do NOT need the Crandon mine. For more information check out treaty.indigenousnative.org/cyanide.html

 


 

Tunnel Fire Sparks Fear Of Mine Disaster



July 31, 2001
by Peter Rebhahn
Green Bay Press-Gazette
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/news/archive/local_794928.shtml


CRANDON-- When a train carrying hazardous chemicals through a tunnel beneath the city of Baltimore derailed, caught fire and leaked acids this month, it begged a question.Could something similar happen with the estimated 7-tons-per-month of sodium cyanide Nicolet Minerals Co. intends to move to the site of a proposed copper and zinc mine near Crandon?

"Transportation, in fact, is one of our primary concerns," said Zoltan Grossman, co-founder of the Wolf-Watershed Education Project.Nicolet Minerals plans to use the cyanide to separate ore from rock. Grossman said most mining-related cyanide disasters worldwide have been transportation related, and that's one more good reason to oppose the project. "Murphy's Law says if something can go wrong, it will go wrong" he said.

Nicolet Minerals spokesman Dale Alberts said fears of a transportation-related cyanide accident are ill-founded.

"Even though there have been accidents where trucks slipped off the road, there's been no environmental release of cyanide from a transportation accident -- none," he said.At least 22 people were treated for respiratory problems in the July 18 acid spill in Baltimore.In an accident on April 5, a truck carrying liquid sodium cyanide bound for a gold mine ran off U.S. 85 near Lead, S.D. The driver, who had been drinking, was charged with reckless driving. No cyanide leaked from the double-walled tanker truck.

Alberts said the company plans to move cyanide to the mine by truck in solid briquette form, and that lessens the chances of a spill in case of an accident. The briquettes will be shipped in waterproof bags inside steel containers, he said.The cyanide will be delivered by the manufacturer and not moved on Nicolet Minerals trucks, Alberts said. "We haven't selected a supplier yet, so I don't know where it will come from," he said.

The state Department of Natural Resources hasn't yet granted permits for the mine. Jeff Schimpff, a DNR environmental impact specialist who's working on the mine proposal, said his agency wouldn't regulate movement of cyanide to the mine site. "We have no authority to do that under the mining laws," he said.Regulation of hazardous chemicals on roadways rests with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Ray Lukesic, state program specialist for the administration, said cyanide shippers face a host of special regulations " including a requirement to provide hazardous materials training to drivers. "The training the company gives must be function-specific training for that specific hazardous material," Lukesic said.

But mine opponent and town of Nashville Chairman Chuck Sleeter isn't convinced. "The company will tell you it will be hauled by trained hazardous waste drivers, and the equipment is going to be top-of-the line," he said. "But the reality is that, in the real world, this kind of thing is contracted to the lowest bidder."

A bill now pending in the Legislature would ban the use of cyanide in mining in Wisconsin. Alberts called the legislation a "political and hypocritical travesty" and said the Crandon mine was being unfairly singled out for its use of cyanide."It's used every day by 50 companies located in 17 Wisconsin counties," Alberts said. "It's transported all over our highways, every day, every week, all year long."According to information from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, a Green Bay company " Ultra Plating Corp. " is one of the 50.

But the Green Bay company, like others that use cyanide, measures its use in pounds, not tons."The amount is dramatically different" with the proposed Crandon mine, Grossman said, adding that he's unconvinced that precautions will prevent a spill. "Not really" if you think about icy roads in the winter, of trucks jackknifing and going into ditches filled with water," he said.

Sleeter said many roads in the mine area are winding and in poor repair, such as Wisconsin 55, which parallels the Wolf River for many miles."In this country, there isn't a quarter of a mile that there isn't a stream or a lake or a wetland," Sleeter said. "If this stuff gets into them, we've got real problems."

But Alberts said that if enacted, the cyanide-in-mining ban wouldn't keep the chemical off roads. "There will still be sodium cyanide and all kinds of other chemicals going up and down our highways and railways," he said.Alberts vowed to keep fighting for state approval of the mine. "We believe we're going to build the best mine in the world and set a new standard for the industry," he said. "There are a lot of good things about this mine that Madison politicians don't see and don't understand."


 

     

    ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY RESOURCES

  • New Cyanide Leach Mining Information Packet:
    http://www.mineralpolicy.org/files/Cyanide_Leach_Packet.pdf
    We have just updated our Cyanide Leach Mining Information Packet. This information packet is designed to give readers a closer look at cyanide and the leaching process used in mining. It provides useful information from Cyanide Uncertainties, TRI, ATSDR "ToxFAQS", The Washington Post, and includes several fact sheets. To receive a copy, please email us at mpc@mineralpolicy.org or call us at (202) 887-1872. It can also be viewed and downloaded from the above link, and should be on our website within the next few days.

 

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