November 23, 2003

Crandon Mine Purchase a Victory for Online Activism

By Alice McCombs

The decades long battle to stop the Crandon mine was won with the historic cooperation of Native American tribes, environmentalists, hunters, sportfishers, legislators, and people from Wisconsin and around the world. For the past eight years, the online activist organization EarthWINS was there every step of the way.

EarthWINS was started in 1995 in Shawano, Wisconsin, by Alice McCombs and her sister, T L Christen. Although the mission of EarthWINS was to help people work for peace, justice, human rights and the environment, its primary goal was to help stop the Crandon mine.

T L and Alice decided to make EarthWINS an online activist organization, because they realized the anti-Crandon mine effort needed an inexpensive way to communicate quickly with each other and the rest of the world. Alice McCombs says, "I knew if we could get the message out to the international community about what was happening in Wisconsin, the feedback would help stop the mine. I knew the Internet could make that happen."

EarthWINS began its online activism on Thanksgiving Day 1995 with EarthWINS Daily, an email list dedicated to "helping people who resist unsafe mining in their neighborhoods share information about their strategies, mining, and mining corporations." The newsletter was the first email listserv to share information online about the Crandon mine with other states and other countries. From 1995-1998 EarthWINS Daily distributed over 500 email newsletters to people and organizations around the world. And every bit of news about the Crandon mine, including the effort to pass the Mining
Moratorium, was posted to the Net in the newsletter.

While working as a research analyst for the Menominee Treaty Rights & Mining Impacts office from 1996 - 1997, Alice helped design and obtain content for the Menominee Tribe's website about the Crandon mine. The Menominee Indian Tribe put up the first website about the Crandon mine. It is still online today at

In November 1996, EarthWINS went on the web at
Information about the proposed Crandon mine was available through a Yahoo search on the Menominee and EarthWINS websites. McCombs says, "This was back in the days when the general public was just starting to use email and the World Wide Web was in its infancy. The Wisconsin Legislature and Department of Natural Resources were amazed to see emails coming in regularly from Wisconsin citizens, other states and other countries who were strongly opposed to the Crandon mine."

By the end of 1997, the Midwest Treaty Network and Wisconsin Stewardship Network had their own websites with information about the Crandon mine.

Recognizing how effective online activism was in the effort to pass the Mining Moratorium, the mining industry labeled EarthWINS and other organizations "Cyber-barbarians" in their mining journals and launched a multi-million dollar PR campaign to sway public opinion. But it was too little, too late. The mining industry's misinformation was unable to counter the facts about sulfide mining widely available to the public online and in print. With its support for thousands of Wisconsin citizens working for the Mining Moratorium, online activism against the Crandon mine became a significant factor in getting the Mining Moratorium passed in 1998.

The Mining Moratorium didn't stop the mine, so EarthWINS continued to distribute information about mining. As a way to expand the network of people and organizations working against the Crandon mine, EarthWINS began to design and maintain websites. Since 1998, EarthWINS has provided free or at-cost services such as website domain registration, hosting, design, and promotion, as well as training in website design at various times to the following organizations:

Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin, Midwest Treaty Network and Wolf Watershed Educational Project, Northwoods Economic Development Project, Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, the Town of Nashville, Rusk County Citizens Action Group, Protect the Earth, Protect Our Wolf River, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger, Friends of the Mecan, Concerned Citizens of Newport, Save Our Unique Lands, Nukewatch, Red River Riders, and the Central Wisconsin
Wildlife Center.

In 1999 EarthWINS designed the website for the Wolf Watershed Educational Project. Links on the other EarthWINS sites to the NoCrandonMine website made it one of the main sites for people to learn about the Crandon mine. By January 2000, simply entering "Crandon mine" into a Yahoo search would result in pages of links to Wisconsin organizations opposing the mine. Easy access to detailed information about sulfide mining on multiple websites helped make Wisconsin the least favorable place to mine in the world in 2003.

Effective use of the Internet linked thousands of people together into a powerful global alliance. Their relentless opposition to the fatally flawed mining project made it possible for the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa and Forest County Potowatomi to purchase the Crandon mine. Online activism helped protect the land and water in north Wisconsin for generations of children to come.

People have the power to redeem the work of fools.

P O Box 573
Shawano, WI 54166


November 21, 2003

'Under new management' in Wisconsin

Indian Country Today

The news is a couple of weeks old but we still catch up with awe at the happenings in Crandon, Wis., where two tribes long engaged in environmental struggles against mining concerns have now resolved the issue by buying out the mines.

It cost the Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi $16.5 million, but the tribes have now put to rest fears that mineral contamination from the proposed zinc and copper mine - particularly sulfuric acid and the copper - will ruin precious wild rice beds and the drinking water of thousands of people. The deal calls for the most recent owner, Nicolet Hardwood, to keep the timber rights to the site, but the tribes will own the mineral rights. From all reports, the Potawatomi put up most of the funds, and in doing so backed up a long-standing and heartfelt struggle by a neighboring Native nation, the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa, who have fought long and hard to save their precious wild rice beds from their potential worst fate of suffering destructive contamination under the proposed mine.

Media observers commented on the integrity of the Native perspective and action on this case about tribal values and practices and how they can run counter to developments that contaminate environments. Regional journalists were impressed with the long and sustained contention by the tribe that the mining proposal was way out of line if the rice beds would survive.

This is one long-term Indian struggle that started way before Wisconsin tribes had ever heard of gaming as any kind of economic option. The fight was over environmental quality and the potential destruction of the water tables in this pristine part of Wisconsin. Beyond the rice beds, the headwaters of the sacred Wolf River, one of the most natural bodies of water left in Wisconsin, were at stake. Stated then-Menominee Tribal Chairman John Teller: "The Wolf River is the life-line of the Menominee people, and central to our existence. We will let no harm come to the river. Water quality and tremendous ecological diversity are imperiled, including bald eagle, wild rice, lake sturgeon and trout habitat." The Sokaogon Chippewa felt the same way about their ricing beds. The 550-acre mine was particularly threatening to the Sokaogon�s abundant but fragile wild rice beds. These "gifts from the Creator" are revered, treasured. Much tribal activity and tradition follows the ricing year. "Our people stand to lose our very existence," said Arlyn Ackley, Sokaogon Chippewa chairwoman.

The proposed Crandon mine, owned most recently by Nicolet Minerals Co., itself a subsidiary of Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, has been a strong issue for the northern Wisconsin tribes since the early 1970s. Exxon first discovered the huge ore deposit in 1975 and various companies have vied to possess it ever since.

The Sokaogon Chippewa immediately rallied around the survival of their most appreciated food gift. Monomin, the "food of the Indian people," according to tribal elders was too precious a subsistence basis of food security, as well as a revered connection to the land and the natural world. As the tribes organized to fight back, many groups ranging from environmentalists to independent conservatives joined them. Many rallies and marches, year by year, plus intense legal action, slowed the proposed development to a crawl. The kind of mining proposed, which its likely 44 million tons of sulfide ore tailings, to be left in lagoons and in runoffs, met significant resistance among a citizenry wary of extractive mega-projects. The tribal resistance over their core issue of protecting natural bounties became the core expression of the overall issue. The case of the Mole Lake/Crandon mine and how the local tribal people stuck to their cultural strength and demanded a hearing, and ultimately won a struggle, has its heroic proportion.

While the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was still processing the mining company�s permit application and working on a draft environmental impact statement for the mine, the two Wisconsin Indian tribes went ahead and bought the mineral rights to the mine they have fought for a quarter century.

The "sold" sign draped across the Nicolet Minerals office building was clear, while news stories reported that tribal drums "echoed through the streets of Crandon." At corporate headquarters, an attorney announced to callers that the company was "under new management."

"Under new management" has a nice ring, as we see American Indian tribes gain the capacity to make serious and long-lasting tribal acquisitions and directly exhibit their cultural values. We salute this particular use of tribal assets as an intelligent and profoundly well-placed decision to use financial gains to further long-held traditional teachings. It displays an example of nation building at its best.

The changes among Wisconsin tribes in the past two decades are "too deep and too profound to be credited only to more money," stated one local observer. The gaming revolution has helped and of course this is obvious from the result of a tribe having serious finances. But it is clear that it simply applies economic strength to back up a resolve that was already there and was gaining ground throughout the quarter century of the fight against the Crandon Mine and the very intense fight to protect tribal fishing rights. These mobilizations by Native activists and tribal governments, allied with a good range of other publics, reaffirmed something very intense for the Wisconsin tribes.

Probably the breakthrough in the sense of actual accomplishment and pride in identity came during the fishing struggles of the 1980s, when racial hatred spewed against Indians generally and the tribes organized successfully across the state. "Spear an Indian, not a fish," read one popular sign, nevertheless, night after night Native spearfishers braved rocks and racist insults to defend their right to fish under tribal laws, and won. We salute such great warrior activists as Ingrid Washinawatok and Walter Bressette as early leaders on these essential tribal ecology struggles. They kept the Indian issues at the forefront and won a serious public respect doing so. Among the most important allies is a brilliant local professor, Al Gedicks, whose recent book "Resource Rebels," contains an account of the 27-year movement to stop the Crandon mine.

These days, there is money in some tribal coffers and such tribes are gaining a range of clout seldom imagined in American society. Among those showing great class, the Sokaogon and their beneficent partner nation, the Forest County Potawatomi, have both exhibited excellent leadership, regionally and nationally. Just a few years ago, the mining companies negotiated with local townships and would totally ignore the tribal representations. Now, tribal representatives are buying out whole mining operations. Tribal identities are profoundly American but Native tribal peoples often still think outside the big, square, American box. Creativity flows from this extra perspective. Add a good ethical base and controls to the strategic use of financial assets and the mix can bring positive results, for tribes and for many others. We�ve said it before: Indian sovereignty is good for America.


NOVEMBER 1, 2003

Long fight buried, or is it?

Tribes' deal apparently dooms Crandon mine, but hard feelings linger in the North Woods


Mole Lake - According to local histories, the Chippewa Indians who settled here spent 30 years, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, repelling Sioux attackers intent on appropriating rich beds of rice.

Crandon Mine Photo/Jack Orton Robert Van Zile, the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa tribal historian, brings a new sign Friday to go in front of what would have been the main gate leading to the Nicolet Minerals Co. mining site in Forest County.
> Photo/Jack Orton Mining equipment is still on display outside the Nicolet Minerals mining office and information center Friday in Crandon. Photo/Jack Orton Doug Hayes, at his shop in Crandon, speculates that the tribes might eventually go into the mining business. "I think it'll happen someday," he said. "Someday we're going to need zinc, and they're going to mine it."

I don't know how we're going to come up with that money. It's put us in a hell of a spot here. . . . I feel sorry for the taxpayers. - E. Huettl, chairman of the Forest County Board, on the loss of revenue from the planned mine.

They wanted to give up this? For what? - Robert Van Zile, historian, on the land that would have gone to the Crandon mine.

Local activist Victor Bellomy opposed the land purchase but denies there's any racism behind opposition to the tribes. "I don't blame the Indians for taking a free lunch," he said. "Wouldn't you?"

Related Coverage
Timeline: Crandon Mine
with map:
Graphic/Bob Veierstahler
test version:

The warriors who fell during that struggle are buried underfoot near Rice Lake, where on a recent day Chippewa historian Robert Van Zile stood amid a bog and scanned the horizon.

A planned mine would have imperiled the lake, he said.

Then, as if on cue, a bald eagle streaked across the sky, beating its wings over the pristine glacial tarn framed by hardwoods, reeds and the same bed of rice that was fought over centuries ago.

"They wanted to give up this? For what? Van Zile asked.

Jobs and a better economy would have been the answer, but that dialectic is moot, at least for the moment, as the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa, joined by the Forest County Potawatomi tribe, celebrate victory.

The tribes completed a $16.5 million deal last week that gives them control over the 5,770 acres that were to become site of the so-called Crandon mine operation. (The mine itself would have been in the Town of Nashville.)

Joined by environmentalists and a few non-tribal residents, the tribes had spent 28 years beating back the effort - initiated by the mighty Exxon Corp. and supported by much of the non-tribal political establishment of Forest County - to tap one of the richest mineral veins in the United States.

Many locals were eager for the economic boost the mine would have provided to the region, which is among the poorest in the state. Environmentalists and the tribes predicted ecological catastrophe and foresaw the death of features such as Rice Lake and distress for the local watershed.

The seesaw struggle, which sometimes was cast in racial terms, finally tipped in recent years in favor of the tribes, whose political fortunes have changed because of the influx of gambling money from their new casinos that has allowed them to stop the mining.

Now, both sides are spelling themselves after a struggle that exposed feelings as toxic as the sulfuric acid that would have been the byproduct of the project.

The copper and zinc, meanwhile, will remain in the realm of the Sioux warriors.

Beneath the ground.

County to lose money

Erhard E. Huettl, chairman of the Forest County Board, has served in that body since 1968, even before Exxon began its overtures. He was a powerful supporter of the project over the years, and his tone during an interview suggested some disbelief, shared by several other residents interviewed, that the fight actually is over.

Huettl helped reach agreements that meant hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cash-poor county from the Nicolet Minerals Co., the entity charged with developing the mine.

Now, Huettl says, the county faces the prospect not only of losing that money, but also of losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in property taxes. That's because the tribes are likely to seek to have the land put in a non-taxable federal trust, although they have not said definitively that they will do so.

"I don't know how we're going to come up with that money," Huettl said. "It's put us in a hell of a spot here. . . . I feel sorry for the taxpayers."

The problem is compounded, he said, by the fact that the county already can tax only 18% of its land, owing to national forests, Indian reservations and state-owned property.

Sitting in her offices, which adjoin the modest Mole Lake casino, tribal chairwoman Sandra Rachal demurred when asked what the tribe would do to help the county with the shortfall.

"I'm sure we can work something out," she said.

Van Zile, driving his truck on the mine site through the dirt roads that cut through birch stands and ring crystal-clear lakes, was less politic.

"They're the ones that got addicted to that money. . . . They got totally buffaloed into this thing for the last 28 years," he said. "Let them figure it out."

Another county supervisor who doesn't like the tribal acquisition of the mine is Bill Schultz, who represents the Crandon area that badly is wanting for good-paying jobs.

Schultz said he detected a lot of anger from residents who feel that the Chippewa and Potawatomi have denied the region a shot at prosperity, even as they enjoy their own.

"They're kind of using our money to come back and haunt us," he said, referring to the casino take.

As he rode ATVs into his shop in Crandon, Doug Hayes, a former snowmobile racing standout, said he held no ill will against the tribes. In fact, he expressed hope they would relent and reanimate the mining program.

"I think it'll happen someday," he said. "Someday we're going to need zinc, and they're going to mine it."

But not anytime soon.

Reversal of fortune

Glenn Reynolds, the Madison-based tribal attorney for the Sokaogon, finds himself in the unlikely position of being the new project manager for his longtime nemesis, the Nicolet Minerals Co., which the tribes acquired as part of the deal.

On a recent day, he was at the tribal offices sending a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, formally withdrawing requests for mining permits.

If the tribes were to mine the area, which hasn't been ruled out absolutely, it would represent an enormous reversal from the logic put down in Reynolds' letter.

There were "no imaginable permit conditions that would protect these resources over the long term," he wrote in the letter that he was thumbing as an assistant made copies.

Later, he rode with a reporter to his new offices in Crandon, where Nicolet Minerals had set up an information center to advocate the mine, complete with two huge pieces of machinery in front.

Last week, the tribes hosted an emotional ceremony celebrating the sale and plastered an enormous "SOLD" sign on front. Everyone in town knew the shorthand.

Walking through what are now his offices, past a mannequin in a mining outfit, all the eloquent Reynolds could muster about the reversal of fortune was, "It's really weird."

Ready for the next battle

One of the most vocal opponents of the tribes, Victor Bellomy, a retired DNR worker, saw in the sale of the land not the end of a battle but the beginning of another one.

"They're going to try to have that land put in (federal) trust," he said. "It's going to be my job to fight this."

In his kitchen in the Town of Nashville, a stone's throw from where the mine would have been dug, he bemoaned the special privileges he says American Indians receive in this country and was especially critical of the way Gov. Jim Doyle (he calls him "Navajo Jim") obstructed and ultimately killed the mine. (The governor praised the tribes' deal last week, saying it will prevent "environmentally harmful" mining from taking place in the area.)

Bellomy denied that there was an undercurrent of racism in the opposition to the tribes.

"None of us are angry at the Indians. It's federal Indian policy that we fight," he said. "I don't blame the Indians for taking a free lunch. Wouldn't you?"

Many in town seem to be hoping that the mine sale will at least mean a break from such hot rhetoric.

Brian Wilson, on a lunch break from his job as a foreman at a local trucking firm, joked at the unlikely end of the Crandon mine epic.

"What're we going to have to talk about now?" he asked.

From the Nov. 2, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentine


OCTOBER 31, 2003

In Wisconsin it's matter over mine

By Rob Zaleski
Capital Times

This, it seems to me, pretty much confirms it.

When the Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi tribes dropped their bombshell early this week that they'd purchased the site of the controversial Crandon mine for $16.5 million, they made the boldest statement yet that Wisconsin really is different.

Citizens in other states may curl up and cower when big corporations show up on their doorstep. But as local activist Zoltan Grossman noted in an interview with me two years ago, Wisconsinites - regardless of their political affiliation - tend to fight back.

It happened in the late 1990s when a ragtag group of activists in Adams County - many of them lifelong Republicans - told Perrier what to do with its plans to build a massive bottling plant in the town of New Haven.

It happened in 2000 when residents of the town of Porter in Rock County banded together and refused to allow a $9 million corporate farm to be built on 160 acres just east of Evansville.

And now, after a contentious, knockdown, 27-year battle, it's happened in sparsely populated Forest County in northeastern Wisconsin.

But why, some may ask, should Madison residents care about the fate of a zinc and copper mine some 200 miles away?

Because, for one, that mine and its 90-foot-deep tailings pond would have posed a grave threat to the Wolf River, one of the last pristine bodies of water left in this state.

Just as important, it served as a powerful reminder to other citizens groups - whether the Uff-Da Wal-Mart forces in Stoughton or the unions fighting Tyson Foods in Jefferson - that if you're organized and willing to get your hands dirty, sometimes you can force corporate powers to back down.

Indeed, when I first heard about the mine purchase I couldn't help but think of the many ordinary citizens I'd interviewed over the years who'd played instrumental roles in thwarting the various owners of the site.

People like Herb Buettner, a crusty, outspoken leader of the anti-mine forces in tiny White Lake and a prominent Langlade County Republican.

People like Chuck Sleeter, a former sheriff's deputy who became so incensed by the pro-mine antics of the Nashville Town Board that he decided to run for office himself in 1997 - and ended up being elected town chairman.

And people like William Koenen, a onetime environmental planner for the Sokaogon, who showed me the tribe's abundant but fragile wild rice beds and questioned how the state could even consider allowing a 550-acre mine to be built within a half-mile of the reservation.

And finally, I thought of Al Gedicks, the tenacious 55-year-old University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor who'd been fighting the mine ever since Exxon - the first of many mining companies to come and go - first discovered the huge ore body in 1976.

Gedicks was a grad student at UW-Madison when the Sokaogon asked him to join their cause. He eagerly accepted but says he was flabbergasted when he sought the help of the state's mainstream environmental groups and was told that there was no point in fighting a project that was a "done deal" and "inevitable."

"They said the best they could offer was some assistance in crafting regulations that would provide some environmental protections for the mining process," he recalls with a shudder. "There was no appreciation for the fact that this was more than just an environmental issue for the tribes - particularly the Sokaogon. I mean, if the sulfuric acid and the copper from that mine got into their wild rice lake, that was the end of their culture."

Gedicks was at his La Crosse home last week when got the word that a mine deal was in the works. Having suffered so many setbacks over the years, Gedicks says he was highly skeptical. And he still had some doubts when I talked to him Wednesday - a day after the deal was announced at a Capitol press conference.

"I guess after doing this for 27 years, I'm still not comfortable believing that it's actually over," he says.

But Gedicks says he fully agrees that it's yet another example that Wisconsin is different from other states. And he doubts those in the mining industry would argue.

He notes, for instance, that the Engineering & Mining Journal publishes a survey every year that rates the investment climate in every state in the country.

"For the past five years, we've been dead last," he says.

And that was before last Tuesday.


OCTOBER 31, 2003

Nicolet Minerals
October 28, 2003

Elizabeth Kluesner
Executive Assistant
Office of the Secretary
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
101 South Webster Street
Madison WI  53707

RE: Crandon Mine-Permit Application

Dear Ms. Kluesner

As you know, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community has acquired the ownership interests of Nicolet Minerals Company ("NMC").  It is NMC's current view that the pending permit application to develop a sulfide zinc and copper mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River poses intolerable risks to the fragile natural and cultural resources of this region.  There are also no imaginable permit conditions that would protect these resources over the long term and allow this project to be economically feasible.

Some of the engineering features proposed in this application have never been tried in a project this size in an area enveloped by such vast quantities of pristine and irreplaceable water resources.  Since most of the proposed pollution prevention technology for this project has eventually failed over the long term, it is highly likely that the citizens of the State would eventually be faced with the burdens of clean-up costs in perpetuity if this project were built as designed.

Given the number of sulfide mines that have caused catastrophic water pollution in North America and the lack of reliable data to suggest that modern sulfide mining technology has improved sufficiently to justify taking the risks that this project poses, it is doubtful that NMC could, in good faith, meet its burden of proof under the Wisconsin Mining Moratorium Law.  For these and other reasons, NMC has decided to withdraw its pending mining permit application before the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  NMC has also requested withdrawal of the pending 404 permit before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  NMC therefore respectfully requests that the DNR discontinue all work on the permit application including tasks performed by DNR staff and hired consultants.

NMC appreciates the dedicated work of all the DNR staff and consultants who have worked on the complex and controversial project over the years.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Very truly yours,

Glenn Reynolds
Project Manager

Governor James Doyle, Secretary Scott Hassett, Larry Lynch, Charles Hammer, Michael Lutz, Jon Ahlness, Chairperson Sandra Rachal, Vice Chairperson Tina Van Zile, Chairman Harold "Gus" Frank, Vice Chairman Al Milham, Jeff Crawford, Daniel Cozza, Ann McCammon-Soltis, John Coleman, Douglas Cox


Nicolet Minerals
October 28, 2003

Jon Ahlness
Army Corps of Engineers
190 fifth Street East
St. Paul MN  55101-1638
RE: Crandon Mine - 404 Permit Application

Dear Mr. Ahlness,

As I believe you are aware, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community has purchased the ownership interests in Nicolet Minerals Company ("NMC").  After a careful review of this project, NMC has determined that the current proposal poses unacceptable risks to the fragile natural resources of the Native American Tribes living in the project area.  NMC has therefore decided to withdraw its 404 permit application from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the pending mine permit application from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  Since many of the proposed pollution control technologies would inevitably fail over the long term, it is also likely that the proposed 404 permit would violate the Sokaogon Chippewa Community's non-degradation water quality standards.  Given this new development, NMC respectfully requests that the Corps discontinue all work on the permit application including tasks assigned to the Corps staff and consultants on the 404 permit process, including but not limited to, Montgomery Watson-Harza and Earth Tech, Inc.

NMC appreciates the dedicated work of all the members of the Corps staff on this fascinating project.  Please contact me with any questions regarding this request.

Very truly yours,

Glenn Reynolds
Project Manager

Colonel Robert Ball, Bob Whiting, Ed Bankston, Tamara Cameron, Secretary Scott Hassett, Chairperson Sandra Rachal, Vice Chairperson Tina Van Zile, Chairman Harold "Gus" Frank, Vice Chairman Al Milham, Jeff Crawford, Daniel Cozza Ann McCammon-Soltis, John Coleman, Douglas Cox


OCTOBER 31, 2003

Crandon Mine's New Owners Drop Mining Permits

The new owners of the Crandon mine Thursday withdrew a pending mining permit request.

It ends nearly a decade of regulatory study of the controversial mining project.

The regulatory end to the proposed mine near Crandon came in a letter faxed to the Department of Natural Resources late Thursday morning.

The development came two days after the Forest County Potawatomi and Mole Lake Chippewa paid $16.5 million for the land around the proposed mine south of Crandon. Under the deal, the Mole Lake acquired Nicolet Minerals.

The letter to the DNR withdrawing the mining application came from the mining company.


OCTOBER 30, 2003


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The proposed Crandon mine was a mistake from the start. The tribes that have lived in the area, at the legendary headwaters of the Wolf River, understood this better than anyone. And this week, they proved that their commitment and devotion to this special place runs deep.

Using gambling revenue, the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi agreed to pay $16.5 million for the land, assets and mineral rights of the proposed underground zinc and copper mine.

Thanks to the foresight of the two tribes, the long and sometimes bitter controversy over the ill-advised proposal by Nicolet Minerals Co. to develop the mine in an environmentally fragile area is finally over. And more important, it's been resolved for the benefit of all people, Indians and non-Indians alike, who want to see the area's woods, wetlands, lakes and streams preserved and unspoiled. The two tribes plan to evenly split the 5,770 acres in Forest County and the cost of acquiring the land.

Company officials had argued that the use of modern, environmentally sound mining techniques would not have compromised the area's natural resources and that the operation would have generated hundreds of good-paying jobs. But we tend to agree with the tribes, environmentalists and many other local residents that the risk of doing irreparable harm to this largely pristine area was simply too great.

We maintained, as did other opponents, that while the mine itself would indeed produce jobs in an area that surely could use the work, the potential damage to natural resources posed an even greater economic risk to tourism.

The project manager for Nicolet Minerals blamed delays by the state Department of Natural Resources for the failure to get the mine going, citing what he called "intense anti-corporate feeling in the regulatory review process." We totally disagree. The regulatory process was influenced not by anti-corporate feelings in the DNR but by appropriate environmental concerns. And despite what some cynics believe, the two are not one in the same.

It's also important to acknowledge that the tribes were able to preserve this area for generations to come - and simultaneously help protect the state's multibillion-dollar tourism industry - by relying on revenue from their casinos.

We repeatedly have voiced concern in recent years about the expansion of casino gambling in this state. But we have to concede that casino gambling has helped to balance the economic scales in Wisconsin for American Indians who historically have been impoverished.

And rather than hoard this bounty of gambling only for themselves, the tribes, commendably, have chosen to share it with others for the common good. They proved it again on Tuesday.


VICTORY ON THE CRANDON MINE! Oct. 2003 page 3,    page 2,  page1  
 Notes of Supports      Tribes Buy Crandon mine site: Photo & Movie Gallery
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