March 19, 2013
Mr. Michael Mathes
Editor, Tri-County News
606 Fremont Street
Kiel, WI 53042
I write in response to your editorial in the February 28, 2013 Tri-County News. You wrote in favor of the legislation which the Wisconsin legislature has now passed reducing the requirements for operating a large-scale mining project in this state. Among the changes in the law is the elimination of a pre-permit contested case hearing for propose mining projects. The latter allowed local residents to bring forward evidence in a formal setting to show why a particular project should not be permitted, on the basis of environmental or other concerns.
The reasons why the Gogebic taconite mine proposed for northern Wisconsin should not be permitted are very substantial. The proposed excavation of a 4.5-mile long gash in the northern Wisconsin hills will cause damage to the habitat of animals and birds. And operation of the mine would cause virtually irremediable damage to water sources in the vicinity. Leaders of the Bad River Chippewa tribe have called attention to the fact that sulfide minerals in the waste rock would threaten their sacred wild rice beds on the nearby Bad River Reservation. Chemicals used in the mining process would likely pollute nearby water sources. And the huge quantity of water required in the mining process would almost certainly lower the water table in the vicinity of the mine to the extent that nearby farmers would not have adequate water for their crops or homes. Meanwhile, the big trucks laden with rock and the heavy machinery working in the mine would fill the air with particulate and smoke, polluting the air.
I have seen how an open-pit mine such as the planned Gogebic mine affects the environment and damages the living conditions for residents of the area. Open-pit mining by multinational corporations—somewhat like Gogebic, a company owned by a Florida multimillionaire, Chris Cline—has been supported by the government in the South American country of Colombia. The results have been disastrous for communities in the vicinity of these mines. Several years ago Exxon/Mobil developed an open-pit coal mine next to the homelands of the Wayuu indigenous community. Like Gogebic, the company promised jobs for many people. In fact, after the initial construction phase, very few jobs were created. The company turned to experienced drivers and mechanics from other areas to manage their expensive fleet of large trucks and earth movers. The mining process has become increasingly automated, and ever fewer miners are being hired for these mining jobs. Nor is there great promise from this mine of many new jobs in the Milwaukee area or elsewhere in this state—you suggested thousands of new jobs in your editorial—since this equipment can be produced abroad at lower cost, given the much lower wages in other countries, such as China. Indeed, Caterpillar, which owns the mining equipment company Bucyrus of Milwaukee, has invested heavily in China, with the idea of setting up production plants there.
What the Colombian people experienced from their open-pit coal mine was air and water pollution, destruction of the landscape, and very few new permanent jobs. We should not sacrifice our beautiful forests and streams, in the process undermining our tourist industry, for a chimerical, unrealistic mining project.