I am extremely concerned the open-pit mining bill will lead to irreparable harm to Wisconsin’s natural resources, particularly the water quality and quantity of many streams, rivers, lakes and ground water sources in the Penokee Hills and the Bad River Watershed. The Bill, SB1/AB1, grants mining companies broad exemptions from laws protecting environmental and public health, like clean water, groundwater, surface water and wetlands protections. The Department of Natural Resources may have their hands tied and will be forced to issue a permit. Allowing any industry to wilfully ignore such laws is as good as not having the laws at all!
Copper Falls State Park near Mellen is at the edge of the proposed mine, and is one of our most beautiful state parks. Imagine the largest open-pit iron mine in the world right next door, allowed to take unlimited volumes of water for its taconite processing, even if it would drastically reduce the flow in the Tyler Forks and Bad Rivers. Many miles of very high quality trout streams in the area could be contaminated with toxic lead, mercury and arsenic released from waste rock and crushed ore. What will this do to tourism in this area? These same contaminants would make the groundwater unfit to drink and unsafe for human health. Can we justify this to the residents of Mellen, Ashland, Upson and other communities who depend on this groundwater for their drinking water? Also allowed would be the filling of any of the small ‘feeder creeks” that supply the trout streams and rivers with clean, cold water.
All of these assaults on the water resources are a complete violation of the Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine. This doctrine is a part of the Wisconsin Constitution, which states the water resources of the state belong to the people of the state and cannot be usurped by private companies. This doctrine has been upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Unfortunately the current court cannot be counted on to rule so wisely!
If you care at all about the natural resources of this state, you will agree this is a terrible bill and must be defeated. It will be up for a vote very soon. Please call your state senator and representative and tell them to vote “no.”
Carol R. Buelow ([email protected]) is a retired UW chemist and current Madison resident.