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Monday, August 22, 2011

Opinions on Taconite Mining in Wisconsin

{EAV_BLOG_VER:dd07b9f10488db83} just ignore this verification code for Empire Avenue, please

taconite mine tailings
taconite mine tailings in Minnesota (photo by jhy)

received from Mike Stafford, President, Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

The proposed mine along the Heritage section of the North Country Trail appeared to be on hold a few weeks ago when GTAC stopped public-view pursuit of it. Now that the recall elections are mostly complete it appears that the state senate is again ready to consider relaxing current environmental protection laws to shorten and hasten the regulatory approval (per Senator Fitzgerald in an interview this morning). The North Country Trail Association does not take a position on whether the mine should or should not be approved. However, as individual volunteers, I ask that you consider joining me in asking your legislator to at least respect the environmental and regulatory laws that are currently on the books. These laws and regulations were a long time in development. Certainly laws can and should be changed with careful and thoughtful consideration, but it seems inappropriate to quickly and drastically change laws to relax regulations at the request of one special interest.

You may have already seen this, but below is a letter from a former mine supporter describing how and why he changed his mind regarding the mine. Charles Ortman runs a business in the area and was willing to step forward and make the statements below:

I don't take pleasure in delivering the following news. I was initially a strong
advocate of the Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) mine.

Fortunately I don't like to make decisions before informing myself. So after three months of digging I sadly report the following to you. If you are skeptical of my data I encourage you to go to the Iron Range and check for yourself every one of my claims. I would be happy to be wrong.

GTAC will make our fish inedible (fisherman take heed), kill our wild rice (duck hunters and ricers take heed), sterilize our rivers and lakes (water enthusiasts take heed). Have I got your attention? Good because its all true.

Even though taconite mining is not sulfide mining it still creates a sulfide and mercury pollution cycle. This cycle is unequivocally incompatible with fresh water. When sulfates enter the water they are acted on by a sulfide eating bacteria that turns mercury into methyl-mercury. This is the kind of mercury that gets transferred up the food chain and accumulates in the tissue of fish. It is the kind of mercury that turns into "do not eat fish from this body of water" warnings.

"Do not eat fish from this body of water" are the warnings you will be seeing on fish in the Chequamegon Bay and rivers affected by the GTAC pit mine. High sulfate levels and mercury is what killed over 100 miles of the St. Louis River to wild rice and is responsible for the inedibly high levels of mercury in the fish. High sulfate levels are slowly poisoning lakes and waterways throughout the Iron Range and it is caused by taconite mining.

Taconite tailings ponds on the Iron Range that are leaking (and they all leak, even the best of them) have been draining into the Partridge River for years. There are sulfates and mercury in this leakage. Once a river's sulfate level reaches a certain point, somewhere around 10 parts per million, the sulfate-eating bacteria get going and part of this byproduct is the methyl-mercury that gets into the fish and hydrogen sulfide which prevents wild rice from growing.

What we have now in the Penokees is a fish and wildlife factory as well as a water purification system that you couldn't buy for any amount of precious
metals under it.

Citizens of Ashland and the surrounding community, don't trade the golden goose for a mercury egg! Demand your local and state politicians put an end to this
water killer right now. Demand that GTAC pack up the boring equipment and move along. We prefer our clean water.

Charles Ortman
Can you help to join the fight to let the legislators know that the existing mining laws need to be enforced? A letter that you can use is attached. Please personalize the letter if you wish. If you don't know your Senator or Assembly person, use this link to find who they are: Wisconsin Legislators

Protecting the Northwoods is something we all need to participate in. Please take time to send your legislator an message via email, fax or hard copy. They need to hear from you.

Thank you in advance for helping to protect the Northwoods.

Michael J Stafford, President Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

This segment is on NCTA map WI-01

See Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

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