MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) A mining bill aimed at allowing an iron ore mine in northwestern Wisconsin, will be signed into law on Monday. Once enacted the bill would allow a mining company to begin the work needed to place a mine in Ashland and Iron counties. However, it is highly likely one Native American tribe, directly impacted by the proposal, will fight back.
"It's about a way of life," said Chairman Mike Wiggins of the Bad River Band. "But it's more than that, it's about life."
For Chairman Mike Wiggins of the Bad River Band, the mining bill causes great concern. The proposed site is in the Bad River watershed and he worries their tribal lands could suffer environmental damage. "We have nowhere to run, nowhere to relocate to, if groundwater contamination occurs," Wiggins said.
On Thursday in Madison, he vowed the tribe would fight the bill within the courts. Attorney Kim Wright from Midwest Environmental Advocates represents them. "There's a lot of analysis going on - not just in our organization - but in many organizations and many private firms," Wright said.
Wright says the bill relaxes the state's environmental regulations and opens the door to pollution.
She says, as millions of tons of waste rock containing sulfide minerals are pulled from the ground, wetlands will be damaged, allowing sulfides entry into the water system.
Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) says that was one of her chief concerns. "You really can't engineer something this big to make it safe and you can't engineer the amount of waste rock they are going to have to make it safe," Schaber said.
Rep. John Klenke (R-Green Bay) says the DNR can - and will enact the proper safeguards.
"They'll work with the Army Corps, EPA, other agencies to make sure the protections in current law and those within this bill carry on," Klenke said.
However, Wright says she and her clients have serious doubts. Now their efforts are focused on the fight going forward. "That's what people are doing - looking at the law to see if there are any parts of it that can be challenged before the permitting process starts," Wright said.
Wright says there are many groups around the state upset over the mining bill and she expects any number will step forward to challenge it in court.