Virtual Panel: Mining Regulatory Process

The fourth panel, How the Public Can Influence the Mining Regulatory Process, moderated by Rob Lundberg included three panelists:

  • Prof. Al Gedicks, an environmental sociologist and Indigenous rights activist and scholar.
  • Tom Jerow, a member of the Board of Directors for Wisconsin’s Green Fire since 2014 and the Water Resources/Environmental Rules Working Group, leading the metallic mining sub-group. 
  • Allison Werner is the Policy & Advocacy Director for the River Alliance of Wisconsin. She is from Racine, where she was the executive director of Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network

Key takeaways

  • In this final panel Tom Jerow got us started by discussing the logistics required by mining companies to navigate the regulatory phases of mine development, including the timeline of mining operations, and necessary permits. He gave us an overview of necessary mining permits. Importantly: these rules are currently being revised in accordance with Act 134, with a public hearing on October 22 and written comments accepted by the DNR until October 26. Read on for how to engage in the process. 
  • Both Tom and Al discussed the elimination of the Prove it First provision in Wisconsin, which previously required mining companies to show an example of a mine active for at least 10 years that didn’t pollute the air or water. This provision was initially introduced during the time of the Exxon Crandon Mine fight, and resulted in Exxon pulling out of the project.
  • Al gave historical context for using regulatory framework in fighting mining projects in Wisconsin. He discussed tools both the community and the mine would employ, and told the story of Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwe fighting off the Crandon mine. He told us that at the end of the Crandon mine fight from 1976-2003 was the affirmation of Mole Lake Ojibwe’s water quality standards and tribal authority over the reservation and its resources.
  • Allison left us with a few key steps for how to get involved in the regulatory process:
    • 1. DNR staff are open to questions and available to help you understand these complicated processes—reach out to them to learn more on the DNR metallic mining page.
    • 2. There are four administrative mining rules that are currently being updated. They have until February 2021 to finish this process. If folks would like to engage, the River Alliance and other organizations will provide advice on how to engage in this legal rule-making process. 
    • 3. Provide written comments by October 26 that (1) stay focused on the subject matter; (2) have specific and clear comments with your reasons for your concerns for the harm to our land and waters; (3) talk from your personal experience—where do you live, is there a mine project you are concerned about, how would your community be impacted by a specific mine project?
    • 4. Reach out to your elected officials—they need to know you care about how metallic sulfide mining would impact your community and our lands and water. 
    • 5. Connect with the organizations working on these issues. Find a list of them here.  

Panelists

Al Gedicks is an environmental sociologist and Indigenous rights activist and scholar. He has written extensively about Indigenous and popular resistance to ecologically destructive mining and oil projects. In 1977 he founded the Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy and assisted the Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwe Tribe in successfully resisting Exxon’s proposed zinc sulfide mine upstream from the tribe’s sacred wild rice beds. From 1995-1998, he worked with the Wolf Watershed Educational Project to mobilize public support for Wisconsin’s landmark “Prove It First” Mining Moratorium Law. He is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, a statewide environmental organization to educate the public about metallic sulfide mining projects in the upper Midwest. He is presently working with the Menominee Nation and the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River to oppose the Back Forty project next to the Menominee Rivers.

Tom Jerow has served on the Board of Directors for Wisconsin’s Green Fire since inception in 2014. Wisconsin’s Green Fire supports our conservation legacy by promoting science-based management of Wisconsin’s natural resources. He is a member of the Water Resources/Environmental Rules Working Group, leading the metallic mining sub-group. Tom retired from the Wisconsin DNR in 2013 after 34 years primarily in the water program. Tom had an ancillary role on the following mining proposals while working at Wisconsin DNR: the Lynne mining proposals, the Crandon mine proposal, the Gogebic Taconite Iron mining proposal, and post closure monitoring at the Flambeau mine in Ladysmith. Tom graduated in 1979 from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in Soil Science and has done graduate level course work in hydrogeology.

Allison Werner is the Policy & Advocacy Director for the River Alliance of Wisconsin. She is a native of Racine, where she was the executive director of Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network. Allison joined the River Alliance in April 2006 with an extensive background in watershed advocacy and environmental education. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Aspects of Conservation and Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, both from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. While she has had many roles at the River Alliance, at the core has always been empowering individuals and organizations to protect and restore the great waters of Wisconsin. This has included working to protect the Penokee Hills, the Willow Flowage, and the Wolf River from the threats of mining pollution. 

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