Impacts on Lakes, Wetlands, and Streams Feared
In our last post (Challenges of Restoration Ecology, 01.15.13) we talked about the challenges inherent in restoration ecology that come from working with the complexities and complications of human society and dealing with the impacts of human activities on the landscape. We also predicted that these two critical restoration challenges were likely to intersect in the form of new mining legislation to be re-introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature.
Yesterday, that prediction came true when state Senator Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst introduced mining regulation reform legislation, that was almost identical to legislation that was voted down in the last session, reported the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday. (See mining story here.)
The primary stated purpose of the bill is to streamline mining regulations and the permitting process to enable the opening of a 4.5 mile long open-pit iron mine in the Penokee Range south of Ashland, Wisconsin. The company proposing the mine, Gogebic Taconite, pulled out of the project last year after the first legislative attempt failed. But, according to Tiffany, Gogebic Taconite is ready to resume the project if the mining legislation passes. The bill is also promoted as a jobs generator, directly in the mining operation and indirectly as an employment stimulant to manufacturing in Wisconsin.
Bill Would Allow Mine Waste to be Dumped in State Waters
Wetlands Also Threatened.
Downstream from the proposed mine site lies the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs along Lake Superior in Ashland County, Wisconsin. The sloughs are home to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and are critically important to the Chippewa’s way of life. These are not just any wetlands. The Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs are a “Wetland of International Importance”, so designated by the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands in 2012. The award was bestowed at the 2012 meeting of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, which also won an award from Ramsar.
The threats to the environment in northern Wisconsin posed by this new mining legislation are both direct (destruction of the landscape and dumping of mine waste in lakes, wetlands, and streams) but also indirect in the form of potentially toxic runoff into the Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs and the area’s groundwater.
This blog will continue to follow the mining legislation because it is crucial environmental issue and a restoration issue. It is a restoration issue, because in my view, restoration is not yet capable of correcting the scale of human impact that will be inflicted by the proposed taconite mine.