Mining Moratorium background

Mining Moratorium Updates


March 25, 1999

Take Back the Mining Moratorium Law !

From: Dave Blouin
Mining Impact Coalition Burroak15@aol.com

Dear Wisconsin Environmental and Conservation Colleagues,

Here is what you can do to help take back the Mining Moratorium Law. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has refused to promulgate rules for the Mining Moratorium Law after first promising to do so. The DNR is also misinterpreting the Mining Moratorium Law in a manner entirely favorable to the mining industry. The Natural Resources Board may take up the petition for rulemaking for the Moratorium Law by the May Board meeting on May 26, 1999, so it is important to act soon.

On March 18, two legislative co-authors, two tribal chairman and five citizens announced they were jointly submitting a legal petition to the DNR for promulgation of rules implementing the Moratorium Law. The petition is in response to the DNR's reversal of the decision to implement rules made shortly after the law was passed in April 1998. DNR turned down requests made in September and October 1998 by forty-two environmental and conservation groups and thirty-two state legislators to promulgate rules. It is literally unheard of for the DNR to refuse to write administrative rules to implement new laws-every substantive mining law has rules-and this refusal also allows the DNR to interpret the law behind closed doors and outside of public scrutiny and debate.

The Moratorium Law requires mining companies that want to open mines in Wisconsin to prove a similar mine has operated in North America for at least 10 years without polluting rivers, lakes, streams or groundwater and has been closed for 10 years without signs of pollution. But the DNR is currently interpreting the law to allow two mines to meet this test. This creative interpretation not only serves the mining industry well, but is a complete reversal of the DNR's former interpretation of the law.

At a February 1997 hearing on then Senate Bill 3, DNR official Stan Druckenmiller opposed SB 3 in part because it would require a mining company to produce an example mine that was at least 20 years old. DNR Secretary Meyer restated the same interpretation in an October 1997 letter to then Assembly Environment committee chair, Rep. Marc Duff. Even Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which together with Rio Algom's Nicolet Minerals spent more than $1.5 million fighting the law, used similar arguments against the law. Secretary Meyer acknowledged in January this year that the DNR did in fact change its interpretation of the law after it had passed.

The current interpretation by the DNR--two mines equal a single example mine--was made behind closed doors without any public input and occurred after the Law was passed overwhelmingly by both the state Senate and Assembly. Yet, the prior intent of the law was clear to all parties; the public, the DNR, and the mining industry and its paid lobbyists all understood that the Law was meant to require a single mine to meet both ten-year tests. By misinter- preting it in this fashion, the DNR is in effect already making rules that implement the Law.

The petition specifically asks the DNR to promulgate rules defining certain phrases or words used in the Mining Moratorium Law. These include: "significant environmental pollution", "verified by the department", "net acid generating potential", "relevant data", "tailings", and "tailings site". Rules must be promulgated that define each of the words or phrases to avoid ambiguity.

The petition also points out that the DNR is required to adopt rules for Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 293, which governs metallic mining. Since the Mining Moratorium Law, Wisconsin Statue 293.50 is part of ch. 293, rules are required to be adopted for it. Should the petition be granted by the DNR, the agency will be required to hold a public comment period during which residents can voice their concerns about how the law should be interpreted.

Your help is needed now:
Write or call DNR Secretary George Meyer. Ask that rules be immediately promulgated for the Mining Moratorium Law and that public hearings be held. The Natural Resource Board may decide whether to promulgate rules as soon as the May 25-26, 1999 Board meeting in Stevens Point.

Sec. George Meyer, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, or: (608) 266-2121.

Please consider sending copies of your letter or postcard to each member of the Natural Resources Board as they will make the decision based on what Sec. Meyer and his staff recommend.

The Natural Resources Board members are:

    Trygve A. Solberg, Chair, Box 50, Minocqua, WI 54548.
    Neal W Schneider, Vice Chair, Box 71, Janesville, WI 53547-0071.
    James E. Tiefenthaler, Jr., Secretary, W228 N683 Westmound Dr., Waukesha, WI 53186.
    Herbert F. Behnke, N5960 Wolf River Road, Shawano, WI 54166.
    Betty Jo Nelsen, 4033 Petit Road, Oconomowoc, WI 53066.
    Howard D. Poulson, PO Box 5550, Madison WI 53705.
    Stephen D. Willet, Box 89, Phillips WI 54555.

The rules petitioners are:

    Senator Kevin Shibilski;
    Assembly Representative Spencer Black;
    Roger McGeshick, Chairman of the Mole Lake Tribe;
    Apesanahkwat, Chairman of the Menominee Indian Tribe;
    Herb Buettner, owner of the Wild Wolf Inn and Herb's Raft Rental on the Wolf River;
    Chuck Sleeter, Town of Nashville Board Chairman;
    Kira Henschel, co-chair of the Mining Impact Coalition;
    John Berge, Racine, chair of the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club and Wolf River canoeist;
    Keith Reopelle, Oregon, Program Director of Wisconsin's Environmental Decade and fisherman on the Wolf River.

Please feel free to cross post this alert and use it for newsletters. For more information or photocopies of the petition (the petition will be available soon on the Wisconsin Stewardship Network website, http://www.wsn.org), please contact:
Dave Blouin, coordinator
Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin
PO Box 55372, Madison, WI 53705-9172
608-233-8455, or by email: burroak15@aol.com


February 4, 1998

Assembly votes for Mining Moratorium
Call Wisconsin's Governor!


The Wisconsin Assembly has voted 91-6 to concur with the strengthened Senate version of the Sulfide Mining Moratorium Bill (Senate Bill 3). The bill now goes to Governor Tommy Thompson for his signature or veto. Bill supporters would need to keep two-thirds of Assembly representatives to override a veto. Please immediately call the Governor at (608) 266-1212, or e-mail wisgov@mail.state.wi.us to ask Thompson to sign SB3! Thompson is backing down on his threats to close casinos if tribes don't cave in on environmental and treaty issues, at least until after this year's election. He can similarly sign SB3 to avoid portraying himself as an enemy of the environment.

SB3 had such momentum and public support coming out of the Senate yesterday that Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen decided not to place the newly strengthened bill in a Senate-Assembly Joint Committee, and it went straight to a second Assembly vote (without any new gutting amendments this time). Jensen, Duff, Seratti, Jeskewitz, Grothman and Urban were the only representatives to vote against SB3. For background on the up-and-down history of this bill, log on to http://treaty.indigneousnative.org/minebill.html

Thanks to all who have done such an incredible job on this grassroots legislation. Thanks in particular to the late Evelyn Churchill, whose spirit and perseverence first brought the Moratorium to the forefront, and thanks to Roscoe Churchill for keeping the fight going. Win or lose, other states and provinces will learn from the example of the Churchills and the people of Wisconsin.


February 3, 1998

Wisconsin Senate mining victory--2 releases

The victory today in the Wisconsin State Senate means the Sulfide Mining Moratorium Bill needs only one more step before it reaches Governor Tommy Thompson's desk. The alliance of environmentalists, Native American nations, sportfishing groups, unionists, students, and others was never expected to get this far. If the Governor vetos the measure, mining is sure to increase as one of the primary issues in the upcoming gubernatorial campaign.

Pressure should be put on the Senators and Assembly representatives that will be on the joint committee, and the Governor himself at (608) 266-1212, or wisgov@mail.state.wi.us. Also e-mail corpcomm@rioalgom.com to tell the Canadian company Rio Algom to drop its proposed Crandon project. Rio "Allgone": get out while the going's good. Following are two press releases on today's step forward....


February 3, 1998

One Million Dollars Not Enough to Buy the State Senate
Conservationists Applaud Strengthening of the Mining Moratorium

For More Information: Caryl Terrell, Sierra Club (608) 256-0565
Pam Porter, WI's Environmental Decade (608) 251-7020

Madison, WI---Conservationists hailed the passage with overwhelming bi-partisan support of the Mining Moratorium Bill SB 3 today.

"The public asked for a real moratorium on sulfide metallic mining and with this Senate action we finally have it. This is really good news," said Dave Blouin, Mining Chair of the statewide John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club. "We are quite pleased that this strengthening amendment by the Senate restores the integrity of the moratorium."

"Exxon's Crandon Mining Company spent a million dollars last year to fight this bill but they could not buy the Wisconsin legislature," said Peter Browne, Sierra Club volunteer. "The voice of the people triumphed over money and petty partisan bickering. State Senators who voted for the bill are reaffirming our faith in the political process."

"The Assembly Republicans should follow suit and concur with the final strengthening of SB 3 and put this bill on the Governor's desk, " said Lisanne Nelson Brandon, Director of Policy and Development with Wisconsin Citizen Action. "We are cautiously hopeful that the Governor will join the public and legislators in this action to further protect our precious natural resources."

"We applaud Republican Senators Rob Cowles of Green Bay and Dale Schultz of Richland Center, who worked with lead author Democrat Kevin Shibilski of Amherst in crafting an amendment that incorporates the intent of the original Mining Moratorium."said Caryl Terrell, Legislative Coordinator of the statewide John Muir Chapter-Sierra Club.

"The Assembly action would have allowed obviously polluting mines to meet SB 3 as weakened by the Assembly," said Pam Porter, Executive Director of Wisconsin's Environmental Decade. "Together with many fishing and hunting groups, we were able to prove to both Republican and Democratic Senators how the loophole would work."

"The Senate amendment focuses on science, not voodoo legal terminology, " said Terrell. "This requires modern mines to be used to meet the Moratorium requirements."

"It was very dramatic," said Browne. "Even the lobbyists for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce must have been holding their breath as the votes were tallied." The key vote of 15 ayes and 17 noes to reject the corrective amendment included Republicans Cowles, Schultz and Tim Weeden of Beloit.

After a minor technical amendment, the bill passed overwhelmingly on a vote of 27-5 with the only dissenting Senators Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Robert Welch of Redgranite, Margaret Farrow of Elm Grove, Mary Panzer of West Bend and Joanne Huelsman of Waukesha.

"From the kitchen tables of ordinary citizens, the history of how this bill got to the Governor's desk is an example of true democracy in action," said Zoltan Grossman, co-chair of the Midwest Treaty Network. "This is the greatest environmental victory of the year."

Caryl Terrell, Legislative Coordinator
John Muir Chapter- Sierra Club
222 So Hamilton St #1
Madison WI 53703-3201
(608-256-0565 voice, 256-4562 fax)
email: cterrell@execpc.com


February 3, 1998

Senators vote to fix Mining Moratorium Bill

By Michele Hopp
Sauk County News Service
Published 02/05/98
Sauk Prairie Eagle, Baraboo Sun

After adding a new amendment written by Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), State Senators voted in favor of the Mining Moratorium Bill, SB3, on Feb. 3, 1998.

The Mining Moratorium Bill prohibits the opening of a new mine in a sulfide ore body until a similar mine has been operated elsewhere for at least 10 years without significant environmental damage.

Two weeks ago, the Assembly attached new language, which was authored by mining proponents, to SB 3 which restricted the definition of "pollution" to only those mines which had polluted to such a degree that their actions landed them in court or resulted in a fine. The amendment created a huge loophole, which allowed numerous pollution-causing mines to meet the amended SB 3, because their polluting activities never resulted in a fine or court action.

The Senate added an amendment that would require the Department of Natural Resources to also look at relevant data from groundwater or surface water monitoring to determine whether a mine had caused significant environmental pollution of groundwater or surface water from acid drainage at the tailings site or at the mine site or from the release of heavy metals.

The final vote on the amended Mining Moratorium Bill was 27-5 in favor of the bill. Senator Bob Welch (R-Redgranite) was one of the five senators who voted against the bill.

Bart Olson, local publisher and Sauk County Supervisor, an outspoken critic of the proposed sulfide mine near Crandon, Wisconsin was pleased with the vote.

"I am delighted to see that the Senate fixed the giant loophole in the Assembly version of the Mining Moratorium Bill, and that mining companies will have to really prove that there has been a mine operated for 10 years and closed for 10 years that has not polluted," he said. "I am extremely pleased with the courageous efforts of Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center who authored the amendment that fixed the bill. I am very disappointed in my senator, Bob Welch of Redgranite, who not only voted against the bill, but also spoke against bill on the floor and tried to convince other senators to vote against the bill and support the mining industry."

The amended bill will now go back to the State Assembly for a vote. -----

Michele Hopp
Shopper Stopper, Sauk County News Service
P.O. Box 280, 327 Palisade St., Merrimac, WI 53561R 608-493-2291, fax 608-493-2074, e-mail: michele@shopperstopper.com
web site: http://www.shopperstopper.com


January 22, 1998


The Sulfide Mining Moratorium Bill was gutted on January 22 in the Wisconsin State Assembly by an Exxon/Republican amendment , and then subsequently passed 75-21. The bill would have banned new sulfide mines in the state until one such mine can be proven to have been closed for ten years without causing pollution. Mining companies have not been able to locate such a mine, but the amendment redefined and weakened the definition of acidic sulfide pollution, making it much morer possible to "prove" that metallic sulfide mining is safe.

The bill , SB3, will now be sent to the State Senate where Senators will have the opportunity to reject the gutting amendment, probably on February 3. The Senate passed the bill in March on a bipartisan vote of 29-3, but its current actions are unpredictable in light of the intensive Exxon lobbying campaign, and the even party split in the body. Wisconsin residents are urged to IMMEDIATELY contact their Senator, and ask them to pass the REAL SB3, without the crippling amendments. For e-mail addresses, see http://www.legis.state.wi.us/senate/senate.html. If the amendment is not deleted, bill sponsor Rep. Spencer Black will oppose SB3.

Sulfide mining in the Northwoods, and particularly Exxon's proposed Crandon mine (next to the Mole Lake Chippewa Reservation and the Wolf River), has become the number one environment issue in Wisconsin. A strong grassroots alliance of Native American nations, sportfishing groups, environmentalists, and unionists has put Exxon on the defensive. Mining and Indian gaming are already the top issues in the upcoming race between Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, and his Democratic (and Exxon opponent ) Ed Garvey. Legislative Republicans want to gut SB3 so Thompson can sign it, to take the issue away from Garvey. Thompson may veto an SB3 that is intact, but mining opponents have many other strategies on the local, state, federal and tribal government levels.

For more background on mining, see the:

Midwest Treaty Network Content page

Wolf Watershed Educational Project
c/o Midwest Treaty Network,
P.O. Box 1045,
Eau Claire WI 54702 USA
(Make tax-deductible contributions
to "MTN/PC Foundation")
E-mail: mtn@igc.org
Tel/Fax (715) 833-8552
Toll-free hotline (800) 445-8615