February 20, 2012 by Barbara With
After shocking testimony last Friday by two scientists at a public hearing on Wisconsin’s new mining bill, another breathtaking discovery of what appears to be fraud on the part of the authors of the bill has uncovered a loophole of truly biblical proportions. This obvious attempt to re-write science will leave not only northern Wisconsin but the entire state vulnerable to massive pollution.
According to the bill, SECTION 55. 293.50 (1) (b) of the statutes is amended to read:
293.50 (1) (b) “Sulfide ore body” means a mineral deposit in which nonferrous metals are mixed with sulfide minerals.
(See a full text of the bill here)
As defined in the bill, “ferrous” simply means iron. Thus, according to this provision, a sulfide ore body is one in which metals other than iron are mixed with sulfides.
However, pyrite, which has been shown to be abundant in the area where GTAC is targeting for a four-mile open pit iron ore mine, is also technically defined as “iron sulfide.” As the two geologists testified, the presence of pyrite would create sulfuric acid in the waste products left behind after removal of the iron. Given the amount of pyrite present in the rocks that they sampled, this would be the equivalent of generating billions of gallons of sulfuric acid and dumping them into the Bad River watershed.
In essence, the new mining bill attempts to actually redefine science in order to dupe unknowing legislators, as well as the public, who would not have caught such a glaring and dangerous omission were it not for closer examination by several independent scientists concerned for the health and safety of the state.
Just as the bill attempts to create a precedent wherein water quality standards in the bill would trump state and federal standards, this latest discovery appears to be an attempt on the part of the authors to trump the laws of science. If only non-ferrous (non-iron) metals are allowed to define what sulfide ore is, what becomes of the legal status of pyrite, which is iron sulfide? Depending on whether the term “mixed with” includes “chemically combined,” this provision attempts to redefine the principal sulfide mineral in all mines as a non-sulfide. This is the equivalent of legislatively redefining the value of pi.
Even if “mixed with” does not include “chemically combined,” the provision still means that iron in the form of pyrite present in an iron ore body, no matter how much sulfide it contains, cannot legally be considered a sulfide ore body. Taken to its extreme, pure pyrite itself could be mined as a non-sulfide ore body.
Further, this outrageous attempt to circumvent science could make it possible to mine gold and silver under ferrous mining regulations. If a mine had a pure pyrite deposit (iron II sulfide), then any gold and silver (technically non-ferrous metals) could be characterized as incidental byproducts. Under this loophole, changing the definition of pyrite would give mining companies carte blanche to mine the gold and silver, now deemed “responsible” through the new bill, when in reality, the danger of the sulfides in pyrite could be devastating.
In essence, the bill attempts to conceal the dangers of pyrite and the the problems it will cause by partially or completely redefining pyrite out of existence.
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say that manure running off pig farms had caused so much damage that laws were passed regulating manure runoff. A company comes in with plans to build a giant chicken farm, and that company is allowed to draft a bill that defines “manure” as “what comes out of a pig’s butt.” Further, the bill states that its definition of “manure” trumps any state or federal definition. The chicken company is no longer covered under the anti-manure law because what comes out of a chicken’s butt is now technically not what comes out of a pig’s butt. Therefore, by definition, chicken waste would not be considered “manure” under the new law.
At its core, this loophole is an attempt to alter physical reality through legislation. It seems that no one in the Legislature or on legislative staff know enough science to detect this absurdity.
The obvious question is whether the authors of the bill (presumably GTAC) snuck this provision in knowing that legislators could not see it for what it is. Considering that every legislator in the Wisconsin State Assembly is on record as author, that would make them all liable for this fraud.
Assembly Republicans all stand to be authors of AB426
Scientists testify at mining bill hearing to the dangers of mining in the Penokees