July 29, 2013 by Barbara With
After Gogebic Taconite (GTac) stumbled over the illegal hiring of a paramilitary militia to protect their drill sites in the Penokee Hills, new diversions are being created to draw attention away from the damage the out-of-state mining company has incurred during the core drilling phase of the permitting process.
GTac is owned by Chris Cline, the billionaire coal miner who has been cited 25 times for violating water quality standards at four mines, including 19 times at the Deer Run Mine in Illinois. This would be his first iron ore mine. GTac has insisted it will rehire Bulletproof Security because of their need for protection after protesters confronted them at the drill site in an isolated incident on June 11.
Last week, a Facebook group that calls itself Wisconsinites for Safe Mining posted death threats against four women who openly oppose Scott Walker and GTac. The group is calling for supporters to shoot the women on sight.
One reason for the distractions could be the DNR’s 10-point response to GTac’s Bulk Permit Application. In the letter from DNR hydrogeologist Larry Lynch, GTac must address multiple conditions before they will be given a permit to do bulk sampling, including how they will effectively deal with top soil erosion, loading and transportation of samples, and how they will contain the sulfides present in the rock. They also need to include letters of support from local land owners and their plan to control asbestos emissions. GTac plans to blast 2,000 tons of rock out of five sites to take samples of the rock.
Another reason GTac may not want people wandering around the hills is because observers have uncovered the “mitigation” process GTac has undertaken at the drill sites.
Recent photos by observers show GTac is leaving behind a massive mess in the Penokee Hills, even at these first stages of their operations in Wisconsin. Considering Cline’s record in Illinois, where he has been reported for failing to adequately address long-standing groundwater problems, this does not bode well for the Bad River Watershed, where the mine will be built.
As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Cline has violated effluent standards in his wastewater permit 53 times over the past three years, according to EPA records. The Illinois EPA says the company hasn’t worked fast enough and must take action because pollutants in the groundwater are spreading and have been detected outside the mine’s property.
Observers at the Penokee drill sites report large amounts of standing water that appear to have been pumped out of the drill sites and deposited on the make-shift roads that were carved through the forests and left behind. Weak straw bales were used to try and contain the standing water, but do not appear to be working. In other areas, what appears to be thousands of gallons of water have been left behind.
In order to do the test drilling, GTac used several substances that were injected into the drill holes. According to GTac’s application with the DNR, GTac is using three different chemicals, including E-Z Mud Drilling Polymer, E-Z Mud DP and E-Z Mud Gold, all products manufactured by Halliburton, one of a number of corporations who experienced enormous profits on the Iraq war. Halliburton is closely associated with the Carlyle Group, whose affiliate Riverstone Associates invested $600,000,000 in Cline in 2007.
According to material safety data sheets from Halliburton, E-Z Mud Gold is not considered a hazard waste, and yet not much is known about its affects, especially over the long-term. What is known is that the substance is not biodegradable, and GTac should be required to bury it in a licensed landfill according to federal, state, and local regulations.
In a recent article from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Hurley business man Ross Peterson, who is also on the iron County Mining Impact Committee, stated his objections to the camp. “To me, it looks like a pile of junk, a bunch of tarps and barrels stacked all around.” While Peterson has not been to the camp, he has driven by on his way to destroy what GTac left behind at the drill sites.
According to eye witnesses, Peterson’s dump drunk was seen at the drill sites, bull dozing over straw bales that had been set up to contain the water.
The Wisconsin DNR has been alerted and has responded by sending agents to document the mirky water left behind from the drilling of eight test core sights. Under the new mining law, however, if the agents find contamination, the DNR will have no power to stop operations. In order for that to happen, the issues must be elevated to the Department of Justice.
Given Cline Mine’s track record in other parts of the world, it would make sense they did not want the citizens of Wisconsin to see how they are doing business in Wisconsin. What better way to distract than paramilitary militia, death threats and blaming Harvest Camp for “destroying” the forest, all the while members of the local mining impact committee profit off the damage.