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The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) says proposed Crandon mine would pollute drinking water so

Published by MAC on 2002-08-15

The DNR (Department of Natural Resources) says proposed Crandon mine would pollute drinking water source

Two recent letters from agency create new setbacks for mining proposal

New concerns about pollution of groundwater and surface waters by the proposed Crandon mine have been raised by the Department of Natural Resources in two recent letters to the mine site owners, Nicolet Minerals Company, a subsidiary of Australian-based BHP Billiton.

This latest setback for the mining company is just another warning that their proposal cannot comply with Wisconsin's law," according to Gus Frank, Chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi Community. "Their plan does not protect the drinking water or the environment. The company still has not submitted a viable plan for a mine."

Chairman Frank said two recent letters from the DNR will likely cause further delays in the DNR's decision on the company's request for a mining permit. A decision before 2005 was unlikely even before the two new letters on groundwater pollution and on runoff were issued.

"The proposed mine is a threat to the only source of drinking water in the area surrounding it. This latest problem again shows the need for continued and vigilant scrutiny of the details of the mine application," according to Potawatomi Attorney General Jeff Crawford. "This is not a project that's ready to move forward."

An August 12 letter from the DNR to Nicolet Minerals Company says groundwater models predict pollution at a legal compliance boundary nearly a quarter mile from the proposed mine site. The DNR said the pollution may travel 22 times faster and reach levels five times higher than the company's predictions. The agency also predicts the pollution will affect the groundwater that provides the sole source of drinking water for the surrounding area.

"This pollution would continue for tens of thousands of years," Chairman Frank said. "It would be unforgivable to poison our drinking water for hundreds of future generations for a project that will last one generation at most."

The groundwater pollution would come from the underground mine shaft where mine wastes will remain stored after the 30 years on mining operations. Attorney General Crawford noted that mine waste facilities are not subject to the same legal requirements as other waste facilities in the state. "If this were a municipal landfill, the DNR would base its permit decision on compliance at 150 feet. Groundwater modeling for mining waste is at 1,200 feet," he said. "That's just one of the loopholes we need to close with the No Special Treatment for Mining bill."

Another recent letter from the DNR to the mining company says NMC has underestimated runoff from the Tailings Management Area into nearby wetlands and streams. The TMA is a proposed facility for mining wastes. It would cover an area larger than 200 football fields with 90 feet of mining wastes.

A July 29 letter from the DNR says, "(T)he existing analysis appears to have under-estimated runoff from the TMA area and potentially resulted in both inappropriately sized runoff basins and incorrect assessments of potential impacts on wetlands and other water bodies."

Crawford said the letter was an example of the project's design flaws. "The DNR is saying that up to four times more untreated runoff than the company predicted will run from the tailings dump into wetlands and then into Swamp Creek. Swamp Creek feeds the historic rice beds on the Mole Lake Reservation and flows into the Wolf River. It's one more example of the ways the mine would pollute the pristine environment at the headwaters of the Wolf River."

The two DNR letters are just the most recent events in a series of recent setbacks for the mining company. In May, the DNR rejected one of the example mines submitted by the owner of the proposed Crandon mine in its attempt to comply with the mining moratorium law.

The DNR said the Sacaton Mine in Arizona is "not acceptable as an example of a mine that has been operated or closed for ten years without resulting in significant environmental pollution." The company submitted the Sacaton mine as an example mine that satisfies both the ten-year operation requirement and ten-year closure requirement specified in the 1998 Mining Moratorium Law.

The mine proposal received another major blow the same week the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa to enact water quality standards that upstream activities - such as the proposed Crandon mine - must meet under the federal Clean Water Act.

Released on Aug. 29, 2002

For more information, contact: Bill McClenahan

Martin Schreiber & Associates
608.259.1212 ext. 4

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel version is at and also below.

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