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Tribes Bypass State Rules, Want EPA To Stop GTAC Mine

Bands Sent Letter On May 27

A capped exploratory drill site at the proposed iron ore mine site
A capped exploratory drill site at the proposed iron ore mine site in northern Wisconsin.  Tegan Wendland / WisconsinWatch.org

Northern Wisconsin’s Chippewa Federation is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop all mine permitting activity in the Penokee range.

Tribe officials are asking the federal government to invoke a part of the Clean Water Act that stopped a multi-billion dollar mine in Alaska.

In February, EPA officials invoked section 404C of the Clean Water Act, which has — at least for now — stopped what would have been one of the largest copper, silver and gold mines in the world near Bristol Bay in Alaska.

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EPA officials acted after sporting groups and tribes said the Pebble Mine would destroy the area’s $500-million commercial and sport fishery, where half of the world’s sockeye salmon is produced.

On May 27, Red Cliff, Bad River, Lac du Flambeau, St. Croix, Sokoagon and Lac Courte Oreilles bands sent a letter to federal officials asking for the same action to stop Gogebic Taconite activities in the Penokees.

Lac du Flambeau President Tom Maulson said the EPA has a duty to step in because new state regulations no longer protect wetlands, water supplies, fisheries and wildlife.

“How many times do we have to have Pebble Mine? How many times do we have to have Crandon Mine? How many times do we need to tear up a whole area that’s going to impact our wild rice? It’s going to impact the devastation of the animals in the ceded territory,” Maulson said.

He said the tribes need to be out-front as they were in a month-long stand-off in 1996 when they stopped trains from transporting sulfuric acid through the Bad River reservation.

“We, as Native people, have a tendency to get right into the body of and the meat of this thing because we have no (option) other than that tribes get radical and do the things that has stopped a lot of this process; Bad River laying on the railroad track. Will they do the same? I hope they do do the same for this here mine up north,” he said.

If the EPA agrees, it will halt mining operations until federal regulators decide if a mine in the Penokees will have an unacceptable effect on the Lake Superior watershed.

For more information, read the Chippewa Federation’s letter (PDF Format).