Strip Mining: The Immoral Equivalent of War | WisCommunity

Strip Mining: The Immoral Equivalent of War

Wisconsin is about to get an education in the propaganda politics of mining. In the meantime, that explores the issues surrounding the proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

We will hear a lot about the difference between ferrous mines and sulfide mines, how mining metals with magnets and water is clean compared to using chemicals to extract the metal. We will hear how  "dry-stacking" and "closed loops" will prevent water contamination. We will hear about hundreds of well-paying jobs, about "reclamation" and being "reasonable." We will be told, in the words of the suddenly created , that "the numerous mines that are being considered in  Wisconsin-- from iron ore, to sand, to gold, to copper-- can be done in an environmentally responsible fashion."

What we won't hear much about is strip mining or opencast mining, the mining industry's method of choice, for it is the most efficient way of mining if the metal is near the surface and the mining company owns the land above, rather than just the mineral rights. It is also by far the most destructive way to mine.

One reason we won't hear about it is because the mining industry and our business journalists call it "open pit" or "surface" mining, which makes it sound like a barbecue or a shave. The other reason we won't learn much about strip mining is because Wisconsin has very little experience with it. Having no coal deposits, Wisconsin has escaped the ravaged landscapes common in some areas out West and in the Appalachian Range.

To construct a hole in the ground that is four miles long, half-a-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin will be to obliterate a natural landscape and replace it with a bombed-out crater and a huge, if "contoured", pile of dry-stacked tailings that may well bury wetlands and streams. The idea that such a mine can be dug and run in an "environmentally responsible fashion" is not a responsible statement. That strip of forested land and all the life that exists there is totally wiped out and replaced, eventually, with a barren mockery of what it once was.

About 60% of what's dug out of the ground will be waste rock, and as soon as that waste is exposed to air and water, acid drainage is likely to occur which can raise the pH of streams and rivers and leach metals into the water. Other issues will be sedimentation, road building, dust, air pollution, the sounds and shocks of blasting. It will look and feel like a war zone, which is why such mining occurs in sparsely populated areas that lack political clout.

Large strip/opencast mines always destroy and pollute and to suggest otherwise is to ignore all the evidence.

Of course the mining equipment manufacturers in the Milwaukee area and the politicians who support the mine are prepared to keep ignoring what strip mining is and does., "What could be better than to sell mining equipment from one part of the state to the northern part of the state?"

What would be better would be to create jobs that do not lay waste to our land, water and air.


October 26, 2011 - 8:01pm