Last week, state, federal, mining company and tribal environmental staff toured the proposed iron ore mine site in the Penokee Hills – the first time all the principals had done so together.
Last Wednesday, Department of Natural Resources Waste Management Director Ann Coakley says they took a five-hour hike with the major players in the proposed mine, including Bad River tribal environmental scientists. “They are downstream of what could be a potential mine and they do have their own water quality standards,” Coakley said. “Whatever we review and ultimately either approve or deny, if we were to approve it, it would have to meet tribal water quality standards, so we certainly want to coordinate with the tribe in that regard.”
Bad River Environmental Specialist Cyrus Hester says the field trip of an old U.S. Steel rock sampling site in Iron and Ashland Counties is a good first step. “This is the state recognizing that just as there is need to collaborate with federal regulators, tribal regulators need to be included as well,” Hester said, “because they will play a role in the review and planning of this project.”
Hester hopes this means the days of being excluded from environmental inspection trips are behind them. “We’ll see how it plays out. This is going to be a long, long story.”
The tribes have contended that 19th-century treaties give them the right to protect the ceded territory so they can hunt, fish and gather in the ceded territory.