Mary Annette Pember
Larry Ackley, wife Jenn and mother in law Linda Cooper live at the Harvest Camp now located across the road from the original site.

Gogebic Taconite May Be Backing Off Mining Proposal

Mary Annette Pember

Faced with growing citizen opposition, Gogebic Taconite may be wavering in its plans to build one of the world’s biggest open pit iron ore mines in the pristine Penokee Mountains in Northern Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported on September 5 that the company announced it is pushing back its application for a state mining permit by several months.

The proposed mine site covers both Ashland and Iron counties. Although Iron County leaders favor the mine, Ashland County recently passed a mining permit ordinance that would “reduce the productive life of the mine,” according to Bill Seitz, GTAC spokesperson.

Other events may also be dampening GTAC’s longtime commitment to the controversial project.

As reported by ICTMN on July 16, the Wisconsin Federation of tribes planned a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, asking the Agency to use the 404c portion of the Clean Water Act to stop the mine located on the edge of the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation.

RELATED: Wisconsin Tribes Urge EPA to Use Clean Water Act to Stop Gogebic Taconite Mine

Native Alaskans recently used a similar tactic to stop the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.

RELATED: Native Alaskans Laud Environmental Protection Agency's Nixing of Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay

According to Wisconsin Public Radio, Bad River tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. asked the EPA to use the authority of the Clean Water Act to stop the mine during the semi-annual tribal meeting held in Michigan with the Midwest Regional Administrator of the EPA from August 20-22. Several of the more than 20 tribal leaders who attended the meeting said they were happy with the discussions and hopeful. EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman declined to comment.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe tribal chair Mic Isham told WPR that he told the agency it needs to collect more data on the potential cumulative impact of the mine.

“Today was like a little bitty lightning flash in what will be a very cleansing thunderstorm, I think,” Wiggins said of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who pushed for changes in state mining laws that would allow the GTAC mine to proceed, is at the heart of a criminal investigation for accepting a secret $700,000 donation from GTAC during his 2012 recall election. According to the Milwaukee Journal, Walker pushed his donors to funnel millions of dollars in campaign donations into the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a pro-Walker group directed by his campaign advisor.

Although no charges have been filed by Milwaukee County prosecutors against Walker, hundreds of pages of documents released during the investigation show that Walker’s team solicited donations from real estate developer Donald Trump, industrialist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and others. Walker denies any wrongdoing.

David Rifkin, attorney for Wisconsin Club for Growth, said that records provided “no evidence” of wrongdoing and added that there is no proof that the organization made “any attempt to circumvent campaign-finance limits.”

According to Source Watch, Wisconsin Club for Growth’s board of directors includes Eric O’Keefe, who has strong ties to the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers are key contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a non-profit organization that has been linked with pushing state legislation that is especially friendly to corporate interests.

The Washington Post reported in March that the Koch brothers are using their money to influence hyper-local political races such as the Iron County Board elections in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, distributed flyers to Iron County voters depicting seven board candidates as “anti-mining radicals.”


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