Schoepke Drilling Site Protest News Coverage

Multiple news sources, including News Watch 12 and Antigo Daily Journal, covered resistance to Badger Minerals LLC exploratory drilling in Schoepke on June 1, 2020.

See below from the Antigo Daily Journal, by Brandon Kieper

Mine opponents gather near drill site in respectful protest

It was a protest as peaceful as the forest it took place in, on an otherwise sleepy Monday morning near the headwaters of the Wolf River.

Robert Van Zile, an elder in the Mole Lake Sakoagan Chippewa community, helped organize the event, designed to generate further opposition to the sulfide exploratory drilling project by Badger Minerals. The drilling was scheduled to begin Monday.

“What we’re trying to do is put a notice to the mining company, and the people at large who are behind this, that we want to let them know that we are not OK with this,” Van Zile said. “We don’t want this mining happening in this part of the country. Mining is devastating to the environment, and to the water, it could eventually kill a lot of people, it could kill plants, there’s a lot of bad things that could happen.”

Several dozen activists, both tribal members and other concerned citizens, gathered in the back parking lot of the Mole Lake Casino, then traveled in a caravan the 18 miles to Browns Road in the Oneida County town of Monico.

The activists parked along the gravel road and staged their protest, a symbolic walk south along the road, through the forest towards the drilling site. It was the second such trek along this path, as a group of over 100 people gathered in March, with signs and prayer ties, in an initial attempt to persuade the company and Department of Natural Resource’s to alter their plans.

On Monday, the activists discovered many of those prayer ties now on the ground, felled in the clear-cutting that took place at the drilling site.

Dawn Wilber, Menominee Tribal member, was another event organizer. She explained that the protest group was small by design, and no matter what the situation, absolutely committed to maintaining peace, both with nature and any potential adversaries.

“This is a peaceful event, we’re just here to let Badger Minerals know that we are here, and we don’t approve of this,” Wilber said. “We’re not here to stop them, not here to blockade anything, we’re not here to harm them in any way. We’re just here on a peaceful mission to let them know that we exist and we are not going away.

“We wanted to keep this organization small, once you get too many people trying to stir the pot, things start to get spilled over and it becomes a little bit of a mess. It worked out good, we have a good showing here. It doesn’t need to be a lot, it needs to be quality, and I think that’s what we achieved today.”

The thing is, there was no sign of any drilling activity on Monday. Along the walk, the activists did encounter one logging truck, appearing to make its way from the drill site. Perhaps because of the rain bearing down on the area as the protestors walked, the company elected not to begin the project. The latest information from the DNR now says drilling will begin Wednesday.

Badger Minerals, a Michigan-based subsidiary of a Canadian company, is primed and ready to drill eight exploratory holes to find out what lies beneath the site in the town of Schoepke.

The plans were recently approved by the DNR. The drilling will run 24 hours a day for approximately 25 days, with an anticipated disturbance of 34,500 square feet. It’s unclear what the project may discover: Z0inc, copper, lead, silver, gold, are possibilities. Badger Minerals has contracted with Taconite Drilling of Warba, Minn. for the project.

Multiple drill sites are located within a half-mile of the Wolf River, which flows through eight counties and over 30 townships before it drains into Lake Winnebago. The water that begins in Oneida and Langlade counties then flows into the Fox River and ultimately into Lake Michigan. Twenty-five percent of the water in Lake Michigan begins its journey in the Wolf-Fox watershed.

Keziah Williams-Alloway, an enrolled member of Forest County Potawatomi, brought her children Quinn and Neo Martin, ages four and 10, to be part of the event. She believes that their future is what’s really at stake.

“I would love to preserve our natural resources for future generations,” Williams-Alloway said. “We believe in thinking ahead for the next seven generations, and they are the first of that seven, so it is very important to me. To make sure that they, as well as everyone else in this world, have access to clean water.”

Williams-Alloway also mentioned she was not surprised by the turnout from multiple area native communities.

“We all believe very strongly in protecting our earth, it provides for everyone, so when necessary we all support one another to the best of our abilities,” she said.

Right before the group left the Mole Lake parking lot, Van Zile offered a traditional prayer, setting the somber tone for the walking demonstration.

“I was asking the spirits to watch over us, so nobody gets hurt, and I was praying for this mining company,” he explained. “What we are doing is, we are washing our hands with them, and when we wash our hands with them, they can’t plead ignorance. 

“Something else is going to happen here, it’s going to be bigger, and it’s going to be more severe. The pollution is part of it, but it’s not the only thing.”

In an email to public radio station WXPR, Badger Minerals geologist Eric Quigley said that the company is “aware of the public concerns that have been raised.” He said, however, that he believes those concerns are more related to a possible eventual mining process, not this exploratory drilling.

“We feel it is a little early on in the project to begin to address mining related issues/concerns without having an adequate understanding of the geology and potential mineral deposits that may or may not exist at the site,” Quigley said.

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