VICTORY ON THE CRANDON MINE! Oct. 2003  page  3

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OCTOBER 31, 2003

Crandon Mine's New Owners Drop Mining Permits

http://www.wbay.com/Global/story.asp?S=1505133&nav=51s7IpwJ

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.

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OCTOBER 29, 2003

Tribes' purchase ends Crandon mine tussle

Mining company says 'hostile political climate' doomed project

By AMY RINARD and MEG JONES
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Oct. 29, 2003 http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/oct03/180885.asp
Project timeline:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/oct03/180901.asp

Madison - Two Wisconsin Indian tribes parlayed their gaming revenue to pay $16.5 million Tuesday for land, assets and the mineral rights of the proposed Crandon mine, in a surprising end to more than two decades of controversy over the environmental impact of the planned mine.

The Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi purchased Nicolet Minerals Co. and its property and will evenly divide the 5,770-acre proposed mine site in Forest County.

In addition, the Mole Lake band will assume ownership of Nicolet Minerals. Sandra Rachal, Mole Lake chairwoman, said the tribe will withdraw the company's permit applications to mine at the site because the proposal is "environmentally unsafe and technologically unsound."

The proposed mine site is between the Mole Lake and Potawatomi reservations at the headwaters of the Wolf River on land tribal officials say holds great cultural, historic and religious importance for the tribes.

The site includes and is surrounded by several small lakes and wetlands and is the kind of pristine environment that is rapidly disappearing in northern Wisconsin, tribal officials said.

"The risks to the water, the land and the air from the proposed project by Nicolet Minerals Company were much too great, and so we took action," Rachal said in announcing the purchase during a Capitol news conference.

Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank said the purchase was a victory not only for the tribes but also for the environment of northern Wisconsin and the tourism industry that depends on a clean environment.

"We worried about what the proposal by Nicolet Minerals Company would do to our land, our water and our air," Frank said at the news conference.

"So our tribal members took this action to protect those resources for generations to come, but it is an action we could not have taken without gaming revenues from our casinos."

Rachal also said that without gaming revenue the Sokaogon Chippewa could not have purchased the mine site.

Tribal officials said the two tribes would equally split the $16.5 million cost of the purchase.

Gordon Connor Jr., project manager for Nicolet Minerals Co., said his firm purchased the mine in April from BHP Billiton in hopes of finding a partner to get the project done. But Connor said delays by the state Department of Natural Resources ground efforts to open a mine to a halt.

Even though Nicolet Minerals searched throughout the world for venture capitalists or mining partners, none wanted anything to do with a metallic mining project in Wisconsin, Connor said.

'Hostile political climate'

Nicolet Minerals decided to sell the project to the Indian tribes because of "intense anti-corporate feeling in the regulatory review process and the overall hostile political climate for metallic mining in this state," Connor said in a phone interview.

The mine was initially proposed by Exxon Corp. in the 1970s, but its ownership passed to a subsidiary and most recently to BHP Billiton. Nicolet Minerals had been seeking required state, federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of ore just south of Crandon.

Connor said the tribes approached Nicolet Minerals last summer, but the company resisted any offers.

"They said, 'What do you want for the whole bit?' We were like, 'We're not selling the whole bit.' We weren't interested in selling to someone who didn't want to see the (mining) project through," Connor said. "We were still trying to exhaust every joint strategic partner to come in and see this incredible economic resource."

But because Nicolet Minerals was spending $200,000 to $250,000 a month and the process would likely have dragged out for several more years, the company decided to sell, he said.

Connor declined to say whether Nicolet Minerals will break even or earn a profit on the deal. However, the value of the property and mineral rights was appraised at between $51.2 million and $94 million last year when Gov. Scott McCallum's administration considered and rejected a proposal by environmental groups and tribes to use state public land Stewardship money to buy the land.

Jeffrey A. Crawford, attorney general of the Potawatomi Community, said after weeks of negotiations, the money was transferred from the tribes to the company early Tuesday.

He noted that two pending lawsuits over Indian gaming - one filed by legislative Republicans against Gov. Jim Doyle challenging his renewal of gaming compacts and another filed by the owner of a Wisconsin greyhound racetrack - could have a huge financial impact on the tribes if the ruling goes against their interests.

But, Crawford said, tribal members feel so strongly about the need to preserve this land that they still want to go through with the purchase.

. . .

As reports circulated last week that the company and tribes were close to a deal, Doyle said the land purchase by the tribes "would be a pretty good way to end the controversy."

Doyle praises deal

On Tuesday, the governor lauded the deal, saying it "means that environmentally harmful cyanide mining will not take place in the Crandon area."

Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison), who was a longtime critic of the proposed mine, hailed the purchase by the tribes and praised Connor for agreeing to the sale.

"Action by two Indian tribes is not only a victory for their efforts to preserve their heritage - it is a gift to all the people of Wisconsin who treasure our outdoors," said Black.

"Gordon Connor also deserves credit for helping to bring an end to a long-contentious chapter in Wisconsin history."

Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn), chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said the Crandon mine has been subject to an expensive and costly regulatory process for more than 25 years.

He said the various owners of the site have spent tens of millions of dollars and complied with myriad complex state and federal regulations while opponents have made every effort to make Wisconsin's tough mining laws even tougher.

"While I welcome an end to this controversy and I believe it may inevitably be in the best interest for all parties involved, I hope this is an isolated event in our state's history and not a new trend to drive other industries out of Wisconsin," Kedzie said.

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OCTOBER 29, 2003

Tribes buy Crandon mine site

Potowatomi, Sokaogon pay $16.5 million for property

By Peter Rebhahn and John Dipko
Green Bay Press Gazette

CRANDON - Two Wisconsin Indian tribes have purchased the site of a proposed zinc and copper mine, ending a battle between mine proponents and foes that crossed four decades.

The Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake Band of the Sokaogon Chippewa paid $16.5 million to buy the property from Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, headed by Gordon P. Connor of Nicolet Hardwood Corp. in Laona.

�This purchase protects lands of great cultural, religious and historic importance to our people,� said Sokaogon Chairwoman Sandra Rachal.

Forest County Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank said the purchase would protect northern Wisconsin�s true hidden wealth.

�It ends the threat to the tourism economy - the economy that most of us in northern Wisconsin depend on,� Frank said.

The sale includes 5,770 acres in Forest County as well as 169 acres in Shawano and Oconto counties. The deal includes an agreement between the tribes and the Connor family to cooperatively manage the forested land for at least 15 years. The tribes would own timber rights.

The sale apparently closes the book on the star-crossed mine plan, which began in 1976, when Exxon Coal and Minerals Co. announced the discovery of a mile-long, 100-foot-wide zinc-copper ore deposit 2,200 feet beneath ground near Crandon. The deposit was estimated to contain 55 million tons of ore.

Advocates said the mine project would have employed as many as 400 people for as long as 30 years, benefiting a region hard-pressed to generate jobs for local residents.

But the project drew fierce opposition from environmentalists and the tribes, who claimed that acidic mine runoff and cyanide used in ore extraction would jeopardize groundwater and adjacent wetlands, including the pristine Wolf River.

The Connor family purchased the mine site earlier this year from BHP Billiton, a Melbourne, Australia-based multinational corporation that was the last in a string of mining companies to fail at securing needed mining permits from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Gordon R. Connor, mine project manager for the Connor family, pinned his family�s sale decision on a failure to find a partner to develop the mine - a failure he blamed on state regulators.

�We addressed every major mining concern, and other venture capitalists and all of them gave us the same message: We are not interested in doing business in the state of Wisconsin,� Connor said.

Connor took over shepherding the mine-permit request when his family bought the property. He called Tuesday a �sad day for economic development in northern Wisconsin� and blasted the DNR�s handling of the permit process as �irresponsible.�

�The regulatory process in Wisconsin is stifling the economic infrastructure of the state,� Connor said. �It doesn�t matter if a Republican or a Democrat is in office. It�s the bureaucratic juggernaut down there (in Madison) that�s just anti-corporate.�

But mine opponent Dave Blouin, coordinator of the Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin, defended the DNR�s go-slow approach to issuing mining permits.

�All the former owners of the mining company had years to prove they could mine safely, and they failed,� Blouin said.

Blouin said the purchase is in the state�s long-term economic interest. �Tourism is a sustainable venture,� he said. �Mining is inherently unsustainable because it�s boom and bust.�.....

Jeff Crawford, attorney general for the Potawatomi, said the tribes have not discussed whether to place the land into federal trust, which would remove it from the tax rolls.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Tribes will pay $16.5 million for mine site

Ron Seely
Wisconsin State Journal
11:42 PM 10/28/03

In a historic turn of events, the most vocal opponents of the proposed zinc and copper mine near Crandon stood in the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon and said they now own the mine site.

Leaders with the Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi tribes seemed almost reluctant to believe the news as they spoke at the press conference.

"We have bought the Crandon mine," said Sandra Rachal, chairwoman of the Mole Lake band. "We will withdraw the permit application."

The press conference in Madison followed intense weekend-long negotiations between the two tribes and Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, the lumber company that bought the mine site in April. As midnight approached Monday, a deal was struck; for $16.5 million, the tribes bought the 5,939-acre mine site, the mineral rights and some timber rights.

The tribes will split the cost, said Glenn Reynolds, a lawyer for the Mole Lake band. The Potawatomi will spend $8.5 million, all gambling money, while Mole Lake will pay $8 million in borrowed money, Reynolds said.

"Without the gaming revenue, this could not have happened," Rachal said.

The final papers were signed early Tuesday, putting an end to a 25-year controversy. Not long afterward, Mole Lake tribal members crowded the street outside the offices of the Nicolet Mineral Co. in Crandon and slapped a huge "Sold" banner across the Nicolet sign. Tribal members pounded a drum in an impromptu drumming ceremony. Everybody, said Mole Lake vice chairwoman Tina Van Zile, was hugging and crying.

"It is a day that will be remembered for years," Rachal said.

The tribes have no plans to mine the 55-million ton zinc and copper deposit, said Gus Frank, Potawatomi chairman. The tribes and other mining opponents have long said the mine poses too great a threat to the Wolf River and to tribal waters and rice beds.

"This purchase protects the Wolf River, the wetlands and the ground water of northern Wisconsin," said Frank. "It ends the threat to the tourism economy - the economy that most of us in northern Wisconsin, including the tribes, depend on."

Rachal also said the purchase will allow protection of Spirit Hill, the resting place for more than 500 Chippewa and Sioux warriors who died in a battle over the Mole Lake rice beds 200 years ago.

"Our ancestors lived here," said Rachal. "They fought and died to protect these lands. It is our job in the future to continue that tradition."

Gordon Connor, co-owner of the Northern Wisconsin Resources Group and project manager for Nicolet, maintained Tuesday that the plan to build the mine was environmentally sound and that its loss is a blow to the northern Wisconsin economy. He said the decision to sell the mine site, possibly to the tribes, was made some months ago when the Connor family became convinced that getting permits to operate the mine would be too expensive.

Connor was critical of the Department of Natural Resources and placed almost all the blame for the mine not getting built on the agency's permitting process. He said the process was so burdensome that the company could not find a partner to help build and operate the mine.

# "They all said 'We don't want to do business in the regulatory climate in Wisconsin,'" Connor said. "What kind of message does that send?"

Connor said the company is considering legal action against the DNR and would argue that the drawn-out permitting process represents an illegal "takings" of the company's right to develop the mine.

Officials with the DNR, however, said it has been doing the job it is supposed to do and said Connor is wrong to blame the regulatory process for preventing the mine.

"I think that is an unfair assessment," said Elizabeth Kluesner, a DNR executive assistant. "This was a very complicated process that needed a high level of regulatory oversight."

Bill Smith, DNR deputy secretary, said the permitting process has been long and complicated because the mine site on the headwaters of the Wolf River and in the midst of lakes, wetlands and rice beds.

Already on Tuesday, Kluesner said, DNR staffers were talking about how to begin sorting through the two rooms full of documents related to the proposed mine and make arrangements to archive the material against a day it may be needed again. < Others praised the action by the tribes to buy the mine site and end the controversy.

"Action by the two Indian tribes is not only a victory for their efforts to preserve their heritage, it is a gift to all of the people of Wisconsin who treasure our outdoors," said Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, a longtime opponent of the mine.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Crandon Mine sold to Forest County Indian tribes

 

The Forest County Potawatomi community and the Sokaogon Chippewa of Mole Lake community have purchased the mining rights to the proposed Crandon Mine from the Northern Wisconsin Resource Group's interest in Nicolet Minerals Co. for $16.5 million.

Officials from NMC, which was owned by the Nicolet Hardwood Corp. said the sale of the rights to the Native American tribes of Forest County will terminate the longest running and most expensive regulatory review process in Wisconsin history.

A spokesman for Potowatomi and Sokaogon communities said the two tribes will split the cost of the purchase. The proposed mine site encompasses more than 5,000 acres and was to have been based at the headwaters of the Wolf River near wild rice beds on the Mole Lake reservation. It became a target of opposition by environmentalists and American Indian tribes for the past two decades.

A law passed in 1998 imposed a moratorium on sulfide mining that effecitvely blocked the mine from opening. "The substantial permitting costs due to the precarious nature of the regulatory review process and the overall hostile political environment for metallic mining in the Badger State are the primary reasons that facilitated NWRG's decision to sell its interest in NMC," officlals from NWRG said. Gordon Connor, project manager for NMC said, "It is a sad commentary on the business climate in Wisconsin when every major mining concern in the world that we engaged said repeatedly 'not interested in doing business in Wisconsin'. Wisconsin's political and regulatory process is out of step with the states economic needs."

� 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Tribes will pay $16.5 million for mine site

Ron Seely
Wisconsin State Journal
11:42 PM 10/28/03

In a historic turn of events, the most vocal opponents of the proposed zinc and copper mine near Crandon stood in the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon and said they now own the mine site.

Leaders with the Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi tribes seemed almost reluctant to believe the news as they spoke at the press conference.

"We have bought the Crandon mine," said Sandra Rachal, chairwoman of the Mole Lake band. "We will withdraw the permit application."

The press conference in Madison followed intense weekend-long negotiations between the two tribes and Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, the lumber company that bought the mine site in April. As midnight approached Monday, a deal was struck; for $16.5 million, the tribes bought the 5,939-acre mine site, the mineral rights and some timber rights.

The tribes will split the cost, said Glenn Reynolds, a lawyer for the Mole Lake band. The Potawatomi will spend $8.5 million, all gambling money, while Mole Lake will pay $8 million in borrowed money, Reynolds said.

"Without the gaming revenue, this could not have happened," Rachal said.

The final papers were signed early Tuesday, putting an end to a 25-year controversy. Not long afterward, Mole Lake tribal members crowded the street outside the offices of the Nicolet Mineral Co. in Crandon and slapped a huge "Sold" banner across the Nicolet sign. Tribal members pounded a drum in an impromptu drumming ceremony. Everybody, said Mole Lake vice chairwoman Tina Van Zile, was hugging and crying.

"It is a day that will be remembered for years," Rachal said.

The tribes have no plans to mine the 55-million ton zinc and copper deposit, said Gus Frank, Potawatomi chairman. The tribes and other mining opponents have long said the mine poses too great a threat to the Wolf River and to tribal waters and rice beds.

"This purchase protects the Wolf River, the wetlands and the ground water of northern Wisconsin," said Frank. "It ends the threat to the tourism economy - the economy that most of us in northern Wisconsin, including the tribes, depend on."

Rachal also said the purchase will allow protection of Spirit Hill, the resting place for more than 500 Chippewa and Sioux warriors who died in a battle over the Mole Lake rice beds 200 years ago.

"Our ancestors lived here," said Rachal. "They fought and died to protect these lands. It is our job in the future to continue that tradition."

Gordon Connor, co-owner of the Northern Wisconsin Resources Group and project manager for Nicolet, maintained Tuesday that the plan to build the mine was environmentally sound and that its loss is a blow to the northern Wisconsin economy. He said the decision to sell the mine site, possibly to the tribes, was made some months ago when the Connor family became convinced that getting permits to operate the mine would be too expensive.

Connor was critical of the Department of Natural Resources and placed almost all the blame for the mine not getting built on the agency's permitting process. He said the process was so burdensome that the company could not find a partner to help build and operate the mine.

# "They all said 'We don't want to do business in the regulatory climate in Wisconsin,'" Connor said. "What kind of message does that send?"

Connor said the company is considering legal action against the DNR and would argue that the drawn-out permitting process represents an illegal "takings" of the company's right to develop the mine.

Officials with the DNR, however, said it has been doing the job it is supposed to do and said Connor is wrong to blame the regulatory process for preventing the mine.

"I think that is an unfair assessment," said Elizabeth Kluesner, a DNR executive assistant. "This was a very complicated process that needed a high level of regulatory oversight."

Bill Smith, DNR deputy secretary, said the permitting process has been long and complicated because the mine site on the headwaters of the Wolf River and in the midst of lakes, wetlands and rice beds.

Already on Tuesday, Kluesner said, DNR staffers were talking about how to begin sorting through the two rooms full of documents related to the proposed mine and make arrangements to archive the material against a day it may be needed again. < Others praised the action by the tribes to buy the mine site and end the controversy.

"Action by the two Indian tribes is not only a victory for their efforts to preserve their heritage, it is a gift to all of the people of Wisconsin who treasure our outdoors," said Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, a longtime opponent of the mine.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Tribes Buy Crandon Mine Property

 

Two American Indian tribes�purchased the site of the proposed Crandon�� mine and the mining rights Tuesday. The new owners, Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake band of Lake�� Superior Chippewa, have no plans to develop the mine, which has first proposed�� decades ago.

Nicolet Minerals project manager Gordon Connor says the purchase agreement is�� in the millions of dollars, but he would not be specific.

The agreement includes nearly 5,800 acres in Forest County and almost 170�� acres in Shawano and Oconto counties that will be divided between the two�� tribes. The Mole Lake will acquire ownership of Nicolet Minerals.

Northern Wisconsin Resource Group bought the mining project just months ago�� from mining giant BHP Billiton for an undisclosed price.�Connor says�� Northern Resource Group ran out of options for finding a partner with mining�� expertise to help develop the project. He says nobody wanted to get into�� Wisconsin's regulatory process.�He calls it a "sad day for economic�� development in northern Wisconsin."

The mine was initially proposed by the Exxon in the 1970s, but its ownership�� passed to a subsidiary and most recently to BHP Billiton.

For nearly a decade, Nicolet Minerals has been seeking the necessary state,�� federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of ore from the mine just�� south of Crandon.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Tribes buy Crandon mine properties

Purchase ends decades-long pursuit of development

Associated Press

Crandon - Two American Indian tribes Tuesday purchased a mining company and thousands of acres associated with a proposed underground zinc and copper mine that has been decades in the planning, authorities said.

A sign on property across from the site of the once-proposed Crandon mine displays the sentiment against the project.

Timeline: History of the proposed Crandon mine

"It has been sold," Gordon Connor Jr., project manager for Nicolet Minerals Co., said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

The new owners, Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake band of Lake Superior Chippewa, have no plans to develop the mine, Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank told the Rhinelander Daily News.

The tribes had opposed its development for years, warning it would pollute the environment.

No purchase price was announced, but Connor said it was in the millions of dollars.

The sale includes the purchase of 5,770 acres in Forest County and some of the mineral rights to the property, Connor said.

Northern Wisconsin Resource Group, which owns Nicolet Minerals, bought the mining project just months ago from mining giant BHP Billiton for an undisclosed price.

Connor said Northern Resource Group ran out of options for finding a partner with mining expertise to help develop the project.

"We have engaged every significant mining interest in the world," he said. "The message is clear. They don't want to do business in the state of Wisconsin. Nobody wanted to get into the regulatory process that exists in this state."

He added, "It is a sad day for economic development in northern Wisconsin."

Frank said negotiations with Northern Wisconsin Resource Group took about six months. Most funds for the purchase will come from the Potawatomi community. No state funds were involved.

Northern Wisconsin Resource Group has a forestry management agreement with the tribes that will allow its separate wood products company to do logging on most of the property, Connor said.

Connor Forest Industries, years ago, owned much of the land involved in the deal announced Tuesday, Connor said.

The mine was initially proposed by the Exxon Corp. in the 1970s, but its ownership passed to a subsidiary and most recently to BHP Billiton.

Nicolet Minerals has been seeking since 1994 the needed state, federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of ore from the mine just south of Crandon.

Connor said it was costing his company at least $200,000 a month to continue that process, and a decision on the permits was still 21/2 years away.

"I don't think it was ever the intention of the Department of Natural Resources to issue any permits for this project," he said. "This is like the crazy aunt in the basement. Everybody knows its here but nobody wants to deal with it."

American Indian tribes and environmentalists have opposed the mine because of its location at the headwaters of the Wolf River and near wild rice beds on the Mole Lake reservation.

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Tribes buy Crandon mine properties

Purchase ends decades-long pursuit of development

JSOnline

Crandon - Two Wisconsin Indian tribes parlayed their gaming revenue and Tuesday paid $16.5 million for land, assets and most of the mineral rights of the proposed Crandon mine, ending more than two decades of controversy over the environmental impact of the planned mine.

The Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band and the Forest County Potawatomi purchased the Nicolet Minerals Company and will evenly divide the nearly 6,000-acre proposed mine site in Forest, Shawano and Oconto counties.

In addition, the Mole Lake Band will assume ownership of the Nicolet Minerals Company. Sandra Rachal, Mole Lake chairwoman, said the tribe will withdraw Nicolet Minerals Company's permit applications to mine at the site because the proposal is "environmentally unsafe and technologically unsound."

The proposed mine site is located between the Mole Lake and Potawatomi reservations at the headwaters of the Wolf River on land tribal officials said holds great cultural, historic and religious importance for the tribes.

The proposed mining site includes and is surrounded by several small lakes and wetlands and is the kind of pristine environment that is rapidly disappearing in northern Wisconsin, tribal officials said.

"The risks to the water, the land and the air from the proposed project by Nicolet Minerals Company were much too great; and so we took action," said Rachal, in announcing the purchase during a Capitol news conference.

Potawatomi Chairman Gus Frank said the purchase was a victory not only for the tribes but for the environment of northern Wisconsin and the tourism industry that depends on clean water, land and air.

"We worried about what the proposal by Nicolet Minerals Company would do to our land, our water and our air," said Frank at the news conference.

"So our tribal members took this action to protect those resources for generations to come, but it is an action we could not have taken without gaming revenues from our casinos."

Gordon Connor Jr., project manager for Nicolet Minerals Co., said his firm purchased the mine in April from BHP Billiton in hopes of finding a partner to get the project done. But Connor said delays by the state Department of Natural Resources ground efforts to open a mine to a halt. Even though Nicolet Minerals searched for venture capitalists or mining partners throughout the world, none wanted anything to do with a metallic mining project in Wisconsin, said Connor.

Nicolet Minerals decided to sell the project to the Indian tribes because of "intense anti-corporate feeling in the regulatory review process and the overall hostile political climate for metallic mining in this state," Connor said in a phone interview.

The mine was initially proposed by the Exxon Corp. in the 1970s, but its ownership passed to a subsidiary and most recently to BHP Billiton. Nicolet Minerals had been seeking required state, federal and local permits to mine 55 million tons of ore from the mine just south of Crandon.


Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Complete coverage will appear online later tonight and in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in the morning

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INDIANS BUY CRANDON RIGHTS;
REPORTED MINE DEAL TO END LONG FIGHT

 

By David Callender and Matt Pomme
The Capital Times (Madison)
October 25, 2003

A deal that would end the nearly 25-year-old controversy over development of the proposed Crandon mine appears to be near, sources tell The Capital Times.

Sources said Friday night that two American Indian tribes have purchased mineral rights to the site in northeastern Wisconsin.

Details were sketchy, but legislative sources familiar with the negotiations said the Forest County Potawatomi and the Sokaogon, or Mole Lake, Chippewa have closed the deal with Nicolet Hardwood Corp.

As part of the deal, Nicolet Hardwood would own the timber rights to the site, but the tribes would own the mineral rights.

Sources indicated that the Potawatomi, who operate a large casino near Milwaukee, would provide most of the funding for the purchase in cooperation with the Mole Lake Chippewa.

The deal has been the subject of widespread speculation in the Capitol for the past few weeks.

Some lawmakers were briefed on the agreement late Friday but declined to comment publicly.

Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, a longtime critic of the mine, responded with an "I can't comment" to questions about the reported deal.

Gov. Jim Doyle's spokesman, Dan Leistikow, also said he could not comment.

The owners and managers of Nicolet Hardwood, Gordon Phelps Connor and his son, Gordon R. Connor, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

However, Gordon R. Connor told The Capital Times earlier Friday that a 200-acre portion of the site, known as Spirit Hill, had been the subject of negotiations with the tribes.

"We recognize it is of importance to them," he said, adding that there were "a lot of holdings near Mole Lake that are not part of the (mining) project boundary."

"For several months, we have indicated we would be willing to potentially sell" lands that would be of interest to the tribe, he said, but he said the two sides had not come to terms.

The proposed mine site encompasses more than 5,000 acres and includes land that was originally owned by the Connor family, which has run a timber operation there since the 1870s.

The mine was initially proposed by the Exxon Corp. in the 1970s, but its ownership then passed to a subsidiary and most recently to the global mining giant BHP Billiton. Nicolet bought the mine from BHP Billiton earlier this year.

From the very start, the proposed copper and zinc mine's location at the headwaters of the Wolf River and its proximity to wild rice beds on the Mole Lake reservation made it the target of opposition by environmentalists and American Indian tribes.

In 1998, the Legislature passed and Gov. Tommy Thompson signed a statewide moratorium on sulfide mining that has effectively blocked the mine's opening.

The law requires companies that want to mine in Wisconsin to show that a similar mine elsewhere has been pollution-free for at least 10 years, and that such a mine has been closed for a decade with no sign of pollution.

An arm of Nicolet Hardwood, Nicolet Minerals Corp. has continued to seek state permits for the mine.

Black said he believes the new owners have found the process more difficult than anticipated because of the mining moratorium law, the low price of copper and zinc, and the very difficult mining operation itself.

"It's in a place that really shouldn't be mined because of the high ground water table," he said.

E-mail: dcallender@madison.com
Reporter Anita Weier also contributed to this report.
Published: 6:43 AM 10/25/03

 

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OCTOBER 28, 2003

Gov. Doyle: Statement on Purchase of Crandon Mine

Contact: Jessica Erickson, 608-261-2156

"This is a great day for both the residents of and visitors to the State of Wisconsin. The news that the Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band purchased the Crandon mine means that environmentally harmful cyanide mining will not take place in the Crandon area."

"This announcement means that our precious natural resources - our air, land, and water - will be protected for future generations. As Governor, my thanks goes out to these tribes for their commitment to the environment and to protecting the tourism jobs associated with the clean waters and pristine settings of the Wolf River basin."


Sen. Hansen: Statement on Crandon Mine Purchase

10/28/2003

Contact: Sen. Hansen, 608-266-5670

The purchase of the Crandon Mine by the Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band is good news not only for the environment, but for the thousands of people who depend upon our natural treasures like the Wolf River for their livelihood.

Thanks to the foresight of the Potawatomi and Sokaogon Chippewa Communities, the beauty of our Northwoods will be enjoyed for generations to come and the state, as a whole, can focus its efforts on developing an economy that does not present an unacceptable risk to the environment or in so doing impede on the rights of others to make a living.

Some people may think, however, that with the purchase of the mine there is no need to continue efforts to strengthen Wisconsin�s groundwater protections with regard to metallic mining. That is simply not true. The exemption in state law that treats metallic mines differently than every other Wisconsin business is outdated and still in need of correction regardless of the status of the Crandon Mine. For this reason I intend to continue my efforts to change the law in this regard.


Green Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited: Statement on Crandon Mine

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Contact:
Paul J. Mongin VP
Green Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited
920-499-0999

The sale of the Crandon Mine is a victory for all those who value Wisconsin's clean enviroment. We thank the Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Sokaogen Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band's commitment for preserving our natural resources for future generations. Their leadership preserves the estimated 14,000 tourism jobs in the six counties along the Wolf River and is an excellent example of how tribal gaming revenues benefit all of Wisconsin.


Sen. Kedzie: Comments on Sale of Crandon Mine

October 28, 2003
Contact: Sen. Neal Kedzie
(608) 266-2635

The following is a statement offered by State Senator Neal Kedzie, Chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and former Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, on the sale of the Nicolet Minerals Company to a consortium of Native American tribes:

Today marks the end to one of the longest emotional and controversial issues in Wisconsin history. Since my first days in office, the Crandon Mine has been a hot button item before the Legislature and particularly the Environmental committees, which I have served as member, Vice-Chair, and eventually Chair.

The Crandon Mine has been subjected to an extensive and costly regulatory process for more than 25 years, none the likes we have seen in our time. As the various owners of the mine have spent tens of millions of dollars on that process and complied with a myriad of complex state and federal regulations, opponents of the mine have made every effort to make some of the toughest mining laws in nation even tougher.

While I welcome an end to this controversy and believe it may inevitably be in the best interest for all parties involved, I hope this is an isolated event in our state�s history and not a new trend to drive other industries out of Wisconsin.


Rep. Black: Author of the Mining Moratorium Hails Crandon Mine Sale

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Rep. Spencer Black, author of the state's Mining Moratorium Law, today hailed the purchase of the Crandon Mine by the Forest County Potawatomi and the Sokaogon Chippewa.

Black said, "This is fantastic news. This is a wonderful conclusion to a long fight waged to stop this mine and protect the Wolf River. The purchase today will help eliminate a grave threat to the Wolf River, one of our state most pristine waterways.

"Action by the two Indian tribes is not only a victory for their efforts to preserve their heritage - it is a gift to all the people of Wisconsin who treasure our outdoors. Gordon Connor also deserves credit for helping to bring an end to a long contentious chapter in Wisconsin history."

Construction of the mine has been blocked by the state's mining moratorium law which passed the Legislature in 1998. Exxon, then owner of the mine, spent a record sum lobbying against passage of the bill, but a broad grass roots citizen's campaign helped convince the Legislature to pass the bill and the Governor to sign it. Shortly after the bill passed, Exxon sold the mine and it has passed through several owners before Gordon Connor bought it last winter.

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OCTOBER 29, 2003

Ex-mine owner rips state

Claims developers shun Wisconsin due to its red tape, hostility

By David Callender and Matt Pommer
The Capital Times
October 29, 2003

The former owners of the proposed Crandon mine say their controversial project never got off the ground because of an "anti-corporate culture" in the state that left them bogged down in government regulations and political intrigues.

In a blistering statement issued while Indian tribes and environmentalists were still celebrating the sale of the Crandon site at the Capitol, Nicolet Minerals project manager Gordon R. Connor said the sale was made after it became clear that no mining company would come near Wisconsin.

"We have engaged every significant mining interest in the world," he said. "The message is clear. They don't want to do business in the state of Wisconsin. Nobody wanted to get into the regulatory process that exists in this state."

"It is a sad day for economic development in northern Wisconsin," he added.

Connor said that over the nearly 30 years the mine was in development, mining interests spent more than $150 million on a project that would have generated hundreds of jobs and created "the largest tourist draw in northeastern Wisconsin."

Connor said those efforts were hampered by the "precarious nature" of obtaining a state permit for the project and "the overall hostile political environment for metallic mining in the Badger State."

The result, Connor said, is that the proposed mine "has been the recipient of a litany of government inefficiencies and has become emblematic of a bureaucratic process that is stifling to the economic infrastructure of the state."

And in a parting shot, Connor said Wisconsin has forfeited its nickname "the Badger State," which it earned because of its thriving mining industry during the 1800s.

The company's statement came on the heels of an announcement Tuesday by two Indian tribes that they had purchased the mine for $16.5 million - a move that was hailed by Gov. Jim Doyle, tribal and legislative leaders, and environmentalists as a major breakthrough in the mine's contentious 34-year history.

Money from Indian casinos helped finance the purchase of 5,939 acres of land, mineral rights and mining assets from the Northern Wisconsin Resources Group LLC, which bought the land earlier this year.

The land will be divided between the Mole Lake Chippewa and the Forest County Potawatomi. Mining permit applications will be withdrawn, tribal leaders said.

Doyle, who had opposed the mine, hailed the deal as "a great day for both the residents of and visitors to the state of Wisconsin," and praised tribal leaders for their efforts.

"This announcement means that our precious natural resources - our air, land and water - will be protected for future generations. As governor, my thanks go out to these tribes for their commitment to the environment and to protecting the tourism jobs associated with the clean waters and pristine settings of the Wolf River basin."

Gus Frank, chairman of the Potawatomi community, said the deal "protects the Wolf River, the wetlands and the ground water of northern Wisconsin."

He added, "It ends the threat to the tourism economy - the economy that most of us in northern Wisconsin, including the tribes, depend on. We're proud to be a part of protecting this area for future generations."

Environmental leaders hailed the end of the fight over a proposed zinc and copper mine at Crandon.

"This is fantastic news," said state Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, the author of the state's mining moratorium law.

"This is a wonderful conclusion to a long fight waged to stop this mine and protect the Wolf River. The purchase will help eliminate a grave threat to the river, one of our state's most pristine waterways."

Black praised the two Indian nations, but also hailed Connor.

"Gordon Connor deserves credit for helping bring an end to a long, contentious chapter in Wisconsin history," Black said.

Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud, R-Eastman, chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, also welcomed the settlement.

"Hip, hip hooray, and I'm glad it's history," he said.

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