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Bad River Tribe Hopes Feds Will Help With Concerns About Proposed Mine

Tribal Chairman Says They're Frustrated With State Officials

Photo:  dane101flickr

Officials with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa said they’re losing hope of working with the state in dealing with a proposed iron mine near their reservation. The tribal chairman said he hopes they’ll have better luck with the federal government.

Mike Wiggins, of the Bad River tribe, said they’ve been extremely frustrated with state officials rushing to approve what would be the largest open pit iron mine in North America. He said the mine will decimate the Bad River headwaters that they rely on for drinking water and wild rice cultivation.

Wiggins said that he believes state lawmakers ignored the tribe’s concerns when passing an iron mining bill, which he said ties the hands of the state Department of Natural Resources. He said it’s clear the state isn’t interested in working with the tribe, so they’re moving on.

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“And, that’s kind of where we’re at in Bad River to a certain extent,” he said. “We’re washing our hands of the state.”

Wiggins said he hopes the tribe will get more cooperation from the federal government. He said a recent letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying it can’t work with the state because of stark differences in permitting regulations is very encouraging.

“Without the feds doing that and looking at a tilted, jilted landscape like that as far as the permitting goes, what would be left would be something very undesirable and something very awful by way of direct action in those hills,” he said.

But Wiggins said there has been some frustration with the federal government too with regard to one of the tenets of tribal treaty rights called trust responsibility. It states that the federal government has a moral obligation to protect tribal lands, but Wiggins said they haven’t seen any examples of how that might happen.