Bad River Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins is on another trip to Milwaukee to talk about his opposition to the proposed taconite mine in Ashland and Iron counties. One of the Chippewa leader's stops today was at the Rotary Club.
Chairman Wiggins came to Milwaukee last month to talk to the local news media and grassroots supporters. This time, he spoke to the business suit or dress wearing Milwaukee Rotarians. Wiggins talked about how he believes the taconite mine would threaten ground and surface waters on or near the tribal reservation. He says if a Republican-backed mining deregulation bill advancing at the state capitol becomes law, the Bad River and other mining opponents will turn to the federal government for help.
"There'd probably be a point where we'd have to wash our hands of the state of Wisconsin and go to the Feds. There we have equal treatment and water quality authority and touch any projects that flow into our home."
Wiggins also says it's possible the real aim of the mining bill is to open the door for other possible mining projects in northern Wisconsin.
Wiggins seems to have won over some members of the Milwaukee Rotary club — especially those concerned about sport fishing in Lake Superior, worldwide water supplies or the iron and steel markets. Other Rotarians are in a wait and see mode. Patent attorney Dan Fetterley says his decision boils down to a key question: "Is there an environmentally safe way to extract that ore from the ground, or are we really talking about stopping the whole project?"
Next week, Milwaukee Rotarians will hear from a spokesman for one of the state's biggest pro-mining groups, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.