Native American Tribes promised Wednesday (1/23) to fight a mine proposed for Northern Wisconsin's Penokee Hills, saying it would irreparably damage their watershed, and with it, their culture.
The mining bill being proposed by GOP lawmakers does not permit a mine, but it would make it easier for a major open pit iron mine to move forward in Ashland and Iron Counties. That would put it upstream from ceded territory of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins told lawmakers at a public hearing yesterday that if there are sulfides in the waste rock around the iron, it would forever damage his tribe, “The obliteration of a headwaters in a watershed system is catastrophic. It is catastrophic for the ecosystem, which ultimately is catastrophic for the human population that is dependent and interconnected with it. That’s what we’re talking about. And it’s forever.”
Other tribes also testified in support of the Bad River. Brooks Big John of the Lac du Flambeau said they would not stand by and let this mine happen without a fight, “We don’t fight with our hands nowadays, or with bows and arrows. We fight with words in court. And you will be faced with litigation until the day’s end, I guarantee it.”
Big John said he'd had a cordial meeting with Republican Senator Tom Tiffany, who's sponsoring the mining bill. And Tiffany invited Chairman Wiggins to meet with him, too. If this bill passes and a mining company applies for a permit, federal treaty rights would require state regulators to meet with the tribe. And the Bad River could potentially use those treaty rights to block a mine.