The Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians held a press conference this morning before meeting with Governor Scott Walker to outline ten proposed principles for any new mining legislation introduced in the state.
The press conference started out with a prayer from a Tribal Elder in the native Ojibwe language followed by a traditional “Honor Song.” The drumming and voice of the member of a Bad River Tribe echoing through the Senate Parlor was a powerful reminder of the rich history and cultural importance of Native Americans to Wisconsin.
Following the Honor Song, Bad River Tribal Chair Mike Wiggins Jr. and members of the Bad River Tribal Council outlined the many reasons why the tribe opposes Gogebic Taconite’s proposed open-pit iron mine located at the headwaters of the Bad River. “This is where we live,” said one Tribal Council member. “We can’t just pack up and move. Our land is our culture, our history which runs deep. We came here today to protect it.”
After explaining that the mine represents an imminent threat to the fish members of the tribe eats, the wild rice they harvest and the water they drink, representatives of the tribe released ten proposed principles for mining legislation. These principles are common-sense proposals that are based on science and law. Here is the press release that highlights the ten principles:
BAD RIVER BAND OF LAKE SUPERIOR TRIBE OF CHIPPEWA INDIANS TO MEET WITH GOVERNOR WALKER AND RELEASE ITS POSITION STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED GTAC IRON MINE AND PROPOSED IRON MINING LEGISLATION IN WISCONSIN
Madison, WI — The Tribal Council of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (“Band”) is meeting with Governor Scott Walker today to discuss the Band’s opposition to the proposed Gogebic Taconite LLC (“GTAC”) iron mine in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron Counties, and set forth its position on proposed iron mining legislation in the State of Wisconsin.
According to Mike Wiggins Jr., Chairman of the Bad River Tribal Council, “The Band opposes development of the proposed GTAC taconite iron mine in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron Counties in Wisconsin, because it is clear, based on available geologic and environmental information, that such an open pit mine cannot be developed and operated using current mining technologies and practices without destroying the environmental quality, including the waters, wetlands, streams, rivers, air lands and forests of the Bad River watershed, the Bad River Indian Reservation, and Lake Superior.”
Wiggins further stated that “the Bad River watershed is a Wisconsin gem and pristine environmental resource, and the Band’s cultural identity and way of life is highly dependent upon maintaining the health and integrity of the watershed.”
Notwithstanding the Band’s position on the proposed GTAC iron mine, the Band understands that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and some members of the Wisconsin Legislature are proposing to change Wisconsin’s metallic mining laws to distinguish between ferrous or iron mining and other metallic sulfide mining, to shorten the state’s permitting process, and otherwise change the permitting and regulatory process for new iron mines.
As such, the Band views the process of changing state law as being distinct from the question of whether or not the proposed GTAC mine should be permitted, noted Wiggins.
“The Band’s position on proposed iron mining legislation is that such legislation should be based on sound science and sound legal principles,” said Wiggins. “The Band opposes the proposals that were included in LRB 2035, which was leaked to the public in early 2011, to streamline and weaken the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) permitting process.” According to Wiggins, “any new proposals to change Wisconsin’s metallic mining laws should include ten principles, which are being presented to the governor, although the Band also reserves the right to propose other provisions if legislation is actually introduced.” The ten principles being proposed by the Band are:
1. THE DEFINITION OF IRON MINING SHOULD BE CLEARLY SET FORTH TO EXCLUDE ANY PROJECT PROPOSAL THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE ACID MINE DRAINAGE.
2. THE COMPLETENESS OF IRON MINING PERMIT APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE CLEARLY DEFINED AND THE BURDEN OF PREPARING AND SUBMITTING A COMPLETE APPLICATION SHOULD BE ENTIRELY ON THE PERMIT APPLICANT.
3. THE PERMITTING TIME FRAME SHOULD BE REASONABLE, FLEXIBLE, AND CONSISTENT WITH FEDERAL AGENCY TIME FRAMES. IT SHOULD ALSO PROVIDE SUFFICIENT TIME FOR THE DNR, THE PUBLIC, FEDERAL AGENCIES, AND AFFECTED INDIAN TRIBES, TO FULLY REVIEW AND PARTICIPATE IN THE PERMITTING PROCESS.
4. EXISTING WETLAND PROTECTION STANDARDS SHOULD BE MAINTAINED AND THE FEDERAL/STATE PARTNERSHIP IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS UNDER STATE AND FEDERAL LAW SHOULD NOT BE JEOPARDIZED.
5. FEDERAL CLEAN WATER ACT IMPLEMENTATION BY THE DNR SHOULD BE CORRECTED AND NOT WEAKENED.
6. THERE SHOULD BE CONTESTED CASE HEARINGS TO ALLOW FULL PARTICIPATION BY INTERESTED PARTIES, INCLUDING INDIAN TRIBES.
7. THERE SHOULD BE NO PREEMPTION OF LOCAL CONTROL.
8. CITIZEN SUITS SHOULD BE MAINTAINED TO MAKE SURE PERMIT PROVISIONS AND LEGAL RESTRICTIONS ON NEW MINES WILL BE ENFORCED.
9. CONSULTATION WITH INDIAN TRIBES BY THE DNR SHOULD BE REQUIRED AS PART OF THE PERMITTING PROCESS.
10. INTERESTED PARTY FINANCING SHOULD BE PROVIDED FOR THE CONTESTED CASE HEARING PROCESS.
-Contributed by Sam Weis, communications director.