CLICK TO VIEW IN MORE DETAIL 78K
Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa delegate Robert Van Zile with other delegates to the World Summit on Sustainable Devlopment in South Africa, August 2002.
WORLDChippewa optimistic after talks about mine
Wisconsin State Journal, Page 1
A meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, between a delegation of Wisconsin Chippewa and the executives of the giant mining company that wants to build a mine near their reservation commenced with a prayer and pipe ceremony.
It then stretched nearly 1 hours beyond the sixty minutes that had been set aside.
The meeting took place Friday as members of the Sokaogon Chippewa delegation met with executives from the multinational mining corporation BHP Billiton.
It was the first time tribal members have met with mining officials.
Although they received no commitments, members of the delegation say company executives appear willing to work with the band, one of the smallest and poorest in the nation, to end the 25-year-old controversy over building a zinc and copper mine on the headwaters of the Wolf River.
The delegation from the Mole Lake reservation, which is adjacent to the proposed mine near Crandon, traveled to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa.
They participated in the summit, meeting with other indigenous groups, and met Friday with mining company officials. They are scheduled to return to Wisconsin today.
The band, along with a coalition of other tribal and environmental groups, has proposed that the state of Wisconsin buy the mine site as well as the mining rights to end the long debate over whether a mine should be built on the headwaters of the Wolf, one of the state's most popular and pristine rivers.
"Although no concessions were made," said Sokaogon attorney Glen Reynolds, "I think the company executives could see that mining in this area is completely incompatible with the concept of sustainability and respect for the integrity of indigenous cultures."
Corporate officials weren't immediately available for comment.
Reynolds, who arranged the meeting and was in attendance, said the company was interested in discussing the state's possible purchase of the mine because of a newly released study, paid for by the international mining industry, called "Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development."
The report recommends creating "no-go zones," which are areas of high environmental sensitivity as well as places of importance to indigenous communities.
"If there ever was a no-go zone, this is it," said Reynolds. "While the zinc and copper market is currently flooded with ore, there are no more ecosystems like the Wolf River or Rice Lake that are being produced."
Sokaogon spiritual leader Robert Van Zile conducted the pipe ceremony to begin the meeting, using a ceremonial pipe the tribal members had carried with them from Wisconsin. The ban on smoking in the corporate board room was temporarily lifted for the occasion and BHP Billiton executives, including CEO Brian Gilbertson, participated in the ceremony.
During the meeting, Roman Ferdinand, a hydrologist with the band, told the mining company executives that, although the Crandon deposit is a rich ore body, the waste it will produce has one of the highest toxic chemical compositions of any ore body in North America.
"The only engineering solutions available to prevent heavy metals and acids from eventually washing downstream for the next ten thousand years is to pump, treat, and mitigate forever," Ferdinand said. "That is a terrible legacy for future generations."
Reynolds said the meeting was a historic one for the Chippewa. " We had a good exchange of views and potential remedies to resolve this controversy," Reynolds said.
Sokaogon delegate Ken Van Zile said meeting other indigenous people who are waging similar fights was worth the trip.
"I have been inspired by the countless small groups and communities from all over the world that have been represented here," Ken said. "We have met indigenous people from all over the world who are fighting similar battles ...being with them for this short time has reaffirmed my hope for the future of our people."
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - PRESS RELEASE
Monday September 2, 2002
Johannesburg, South Africa. As the heads of State arrive in Johannesburg for the photo opportunities and handshakes in the final days of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Sokaogon Chippewa delegation heads home to Wisconsin. The delegation is expected to arrive in the United States Tuesday afternoon, around the time that Secretary of State Collin Powel will land in South Africa for a brief, largely symbolic visit.
One of the only world leaders who will not be attending is George Bush whose Administration has made daily headlines in South Africa for blocking efforts to agree on any timelines for implementing plans to address such vital issues as access to clean water, sanitation, poverty, global warming, renewable energy, biodiversity, or food security which were agreed upon at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago. The headline for the Johannesburg Sunday Times reads "Summit Leaves USA Standing Alone". Delegates representing the other nations and NGO's express their disappointment that a country with only 7% of the world's population which consumes 25% of the world's natural resources annually and generates the most pollution is uninterested in any agreement to become less wasteful, more responsible.
Sokaogon Chippewa delegate Ken Van Zile is anxious to return home at the start of the annual ricing season. "I feel we have done our part and I don't see any need to hang around and watch the fanfare. Frankly, I am miffed that my country, which is the richest and most powerful nation on earth, has shown such a blatant disregard for the rest of humanity. As Ojibwa, we have always been taught to share what we have. It looks like its all about money. I have been inspired by the countless small groups and communities from all over the world that have been represented here. We have met indigenous people from all over the world who are fighting similar battles. These are the people that will ultimately create a sustainable future. Being with them for this short time has reaffirmed my hope for the future of our people. Our Tribe is as committed as ever to protect our water, and wild rice. This is far better than cash in the bank. I can't wait to get back home for ricing.
Fellow delegate Robert Van Zile agrees. "Nothing has really changed. Corporations are now just using different language. Buzzwords like 'sustainability' are meaningless without the commitment to do things differently. It will take the work of visionaries within the corporations to make a real difference. This trip has strengthen my resolve to continue to oppose destructive mine projects such as Crandon and help other tribes and communities preserve their land and water. I realize how our struggle against the Crandon project is similar to many others around the world. I am heartened by international community's willingness to help us defeat this short - sighted, destructive mine."
On Friday, August 30, 2002, the Sokaogon Chippewa delegation along with their technical expert Roman Ferdinand and their lawyer Glenn Reynolds met with BHP Billiton CEO Brian Gilbertson and staff to discuss the Crandon proposal and the Company's recent suggestion to sell the project lands to Wisconsin. The meeting followed the unveiling of a three-year study of the international mining industry by an independent agency. The work was funded by the largest mining companies in the world and is called "Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development" (MMSD).
Glenn Reynolds, the Sokaogon Attorney who was involved in arranging the meeting was pleased with the outcome. "This was an historic event. Opening a dialogue with the community most impacted by a project is a key tenet of the industry's new vision of sustainable mining. We had a good exchange of views and potential remedies to resolve this controversy. Although no concessions were made, I think the Company executives could see that mining in this area is completely incompatible with the concept of sustainability and respect for the integrity of indigenous cultures. The Company appears committed to find a resolution that satisfies all parties. Mr. Gilbertson was courteous, inquisitive and generous with his time".
The meeting, which was supposed to last one hour continued for almost two and one half hours. It began with a prayer and a pipe ceremony conducted by the Sokaogon spiritual leader, Robert Van Zile. The "no- smoking" ban in the corporate boardroom was temporarily lifted to allow the ceremony to take place in which the BHP Billiton executives fully participated.
International Groups involved in the public release of the MMSD project encouraged the industry in the name of sustainability to recognize "no-go zones" or areas which because of high environmental sensitivity and the presence of indigenous communities should never be mined under any circumstances. "If there ever was a "no-go" zone, this is it," noted Reynolds. Aside from higher mercury levels that come from air deposition, the water in Rice Lake and Swamp Creek is as pure as when the glaciers receded over 10,000 years ago. While the zinc and copper market is currently flooded with ore, there are no more ecosystems like the Wolf River or Rice Lake that are being produced. The temporary benefits accorded to a handful of people in the local area are not worth losing such a precious and irreplaceable resource. Roman Ferdinand reminded the Company executives that although the Crandon deposit is a rich ore body, the waste it will produce has one of the highest toxic chemical compositions of any ore in North America. "The only engineering solutions available to prevent heavy metals and acids from eventually washing downstream for the next ten thousand years is to pump, treat and mitigate forever. That is a terrible legacy for future generations".
"The Crandon mine proposal is a global issue," noted Robert Van Zile. This Project is a metaphor for this whole conference. "Water is necessary for life. Metals are needed for wealth. Which is more important? I will not sit back and let corporate greed rob our future generations of their rights to have access to pure water." "We are actually lucky, said Ken Van Zile. "At least our lakes, streams and wild rice are still pristine. Some communities are not so fortunate."
August 23, 2002
By Ron Seely,
Wisconsin State Journal (page 1)
Tribal members from the tiny northeastern community of Mole Lake will leave on a historic 11,000-mile journey to Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday where they will meet with officials of the multi-national mining company that wants to build a giant zinc and copper mine in their back yard.
The meeting will take place a week from today during the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Members of the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) band of Lake Superior Chippewa will take with them a ceremonial pipe as well as the stories from their 25 years of opposition to the mine. They will also participate in the summit, according to Glenn Reynolds, the band's attorney, who will travel with them.
The meeting will be with executives from BHP Billiton, the multi-national corporation that wants to develop the mine on the headwaters of the Wolf River, one of the state's most pristine and scenic rivers.
It is the first time in the history of the volatile issue that tribal members have met with officials from the mining company.
Reynolds said the meeting will focus at least partly on the recent proposal for the state of Wisconsin to purchase the mine site and put an end to more than two decades of environmental controversy.
The Johannesburg meeting, Reynolds said, represents not only a critical juncture in the debate over the mine, but also an important moment in the history of the Sokaogon.
"It's the little guys, from one of the smallest and poorest tribes in the nation going all the way to Africa, 11,000 miles, to talk with a giant mining company," Reynolds said. "I think it's going to be a great moment."
Attending the summit along with Reynolds will be Robert Van Zile, who is in charge of cultural resources; Ken Van Zile, a member of the tribal council; Aaron Van Zile, Ken's son; and Roman Ferdinand, who handles the tribe's technical resources.
Tina Van Zile, who works on mining issues for the band and is a cousin of Ken's, agreed with Reynolds that it is a history-making trip for the band.
Van Zile said the meeting was prompted by the purchase proposal. The plan, put forth earlier this summer by a coalition of environmental groups and tribal governments, calls for the state to purchase both the 5,000 acres on which the mine would be built as well as the mining rights, now owned by BHP Billiton, parent company to Nicolet Minerals Inc.
Both Gov. Scott McCallum and officials with Nicolet said they were open to discussing the idea. Since the proposal surfaced, the state has hired companies to appraise the property. No purchase price has been made public.
Not everybody is happy with the idea. Wednesday night, the Forest County Board overwhelmingly passed a resolution against the sale. Five labor unions have also sent a letter to the state Legislature saying the plan would kill a project that could help the economy in the north.
Tina Van Zile said specifics of the the purchase proposal aren't likely to be discussed. Instead, she said, tribal members hope to tell the corporate executives why they don't want the mine.
"We're hoping that our story gets out there," Van Zile said. "What we've been through the last 25 years. And maybe we can help others for all we know . . . Mainly, we want to let the corporation know where we're coming from. And we want to encourage them to sell."
Reynolds said he has arranged for lodging in the countryside outside Johannesburg. "It's a big thing for them to travel this far," Reynolds said. "I found a hostel. It's in the country a little bit so the guys don't go into urban shock."
NEWS ABOUT THE WOLF RIVER HEADWATERS
THE WOLF RIVER HEADWATERS PROTECTION PURCHASE
Midwest Treaty Network Content page