A proposed open-pit iron mine in Wisconsin's pristine Penokee Hills has the potential to completely uproot members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe due to concentrating pollution in the surrounding air and water, activists warned this week in a new online campaign.
Once the operation is in full swing, the Penokee project could become the largest open-pit iron mine in the world -- and it would be located just miles from the banks of Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water on the planet.
The company behind the project is Florida-based Gogebic Taconite, owned by billionaire mining mogul Chris Cline. Due to several small protests against the company's plans, they hired a heavily armed private security force called Bulletproof Security, which dispatched black-clad paramilitaries to the hills of northern Wisconsin earlier this year, sparking a wave of outrage.
Taconite, according to The Sierra Club, worked tirelessly behind the scenes leading up to the project's formal application process to get Wisconsin Republicans on their side, and found a friend in Gov. Scott Walker. Ultimately, a one-vote majority in the Wisconsin state senate allowed them to pass legislation which exempts iron mines from the state's traditionally strict environmental regulations.
The Bad River tribe makes their home directly between the proposed mining site and Lake Superior, surviving on the wetlands' bountiful wild rice crop and fishing from its waters -- which will be continuously exposed to sulfer and heavy metals in the runoff from the mining site if it is allowed to progress.
"This watershed, which has been protected under the stewardship of the Bad River Band for hundreds of years, is an environmental treasure and the foundation of the tribe's existence," explains an advisory from Midwest Environmental Advocates. "An open-pit mine in this location means more than simply environmental damage. It threatens the way of life and homeland of the Bad River people."
This video was published to YouTube on Oct. 13, 2013.
Photo: Flickr user Peter Craven, creative commons licensed.