Coalition, Fighting Against Possible Iron Ore Mine, Asks Obama To Close Loopholes


A coalition of conservation groups and tribes is asking the Obama Administration to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act.

The coalition says those loopholes make it easier for mining companies to get permits, including in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills.

Eight tribes and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) released a report called “Honoring the River: How Hardrock Mining Impacts Tribal Communities”. NWF Attorney Tony Turrini says loopholes in the Clean Water Act skirt water protections.

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“Mines should never be allowed to discharge untreated tailings and other waste into the water that sustain our fish, wildlife and communities. Unfortunately, two loopholes have evolved in the regulations implementing the Clean Water Act that allow mines to seek the nearest river valley or wetland as an industrial waste dump.”

The largest iron ore mine in the United States is proposed for northern Wisconsin’s Gogebic Range right in the watershed of the Bad River Reservation and Lake Superior. Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins says the loopholes make permitting that mine easier.

“They’re going to depend on those loopholes really to unleash what essentially is going to be a shell game of trying to say this stuff is safe. And it’s not.”

They say those exceptions include classifying mine waste as “fill” and allow wastewater to be dumped into wetlands and streams. Upper Michigan Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Mining Specialist Chuck Brumleve says 150 years of mining has left their area with the largest Superfund site in the country.

“We really are serious about attempting to close these Clean Water Act loopholes that have been created for the mining industry and an attempt to not recreate the mining disasters we’ve had in the past.”

Closing the loopholes would not require an act of Congress, just executive orders by the Obama Administration.