Passions remain high on Penokee mine

Tom Fitz, Northland College

Tom Fitz, Northland College

CABLE — It would be a mistake to under-estimate the passion that opponents bring to the conflict surrounding an open-pit iron mine in the Penokee Range of northwestern Wisconsin.

I walked into a “community conversation” on the mine last week at the Cable Community Centre, about 20 miles from the proposed Mellen mine site, and was taken aback at the one-sided, inflamed, anti-mine rhetoric. A group of about 60 watched a 25-minute video, “Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff,” produced by Al Jazeera America as part of its “Faultlines” series. The film made only a passing attempt to be impartial. The attendees, mostly older folks, then listened to a panel of four, one scientist and three activists.

With the exception of Tom Fitz, a geologist from Northland College, and one member of the audience, the speakers were pretty much over the top in their opposition to the proposed mine.

Panelist Barbara With, who runs the “Wisconsin Citizens Media Coop” on Madeline Island, said Gov. Scott Walker should be indicted over the $700,000 contribution to the Club for Growth that she saw as pay for play in the passage of the mining bill. An avowed activist, she said the Republicans in control of the legislature had allowed the mining company, Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), to write the law. “Our democracy is being robbed away from us, and we’re going to get it back,” she said.

She said the mining company president lied, because he had promised to follow the old law, not push for a new law. That doesn’t make much sense, because the GTAC was pushing for law changes from the get-go.

Panelist Philomena Kebec, a lawyer, member of the Bad River Band on Lake Superior and a policy analyst for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission, said, “This project is threatening our very lives.” She was talking about the possible effects of runoff from the mine into the Bad River and the downstream effects on the tribe’s wild rice beds and fishing.
Indigenous people should not have to take another in a long series of hits, she said.

“I haven’t met a mining company that tells the truth,” she said.

Kebec added that once one mine is operating, others will follow in the region and “then the whole state blows apart.”

Panelist Nick Vander Puy, a freelance broadcaster who set up a protest tent camp near the mine site, cited the impacts of open pit mining on the Iron Range in Minnesota. “It’s a mess,“ he said.

“Responsible mining? Show us. We’re from Missouri,” he said.

It’s all about “profits,” he said. Vander Puy goes by the moniker “Ogichidaa” which means warrior or ceremonial leader in Ojibwe.

Fitz did not join the rhetoric, choosing to deliver facts and science. But his discovery of significant levels of asbestos in out-croppings at the mine area raised a potential negative about the mine.

Fitz said he had brought the asbestos issue to the attention of GTAC and ran into semantics when the company subsequently labeled it “asbestos-like minerals.”

Fitz has not done core samples, like the mining company is now conducting, so he does not know what cores would show.

GTAC recently moved its permit application process back six months because its site research is falling behind.

The mining law passed in 2013 gives state agencies 420 days to approve or disapprove a permit once the company files an application.

One member of the audience asked the group if the mine should go forward in the interest of progress if the environmental management of the mine’s runoffs and waste materials were pristine. He got no answer.

GTAC has never come forward with what’s known in industry as an EMS – Environmental Management System. It’s part of many companies’ operating systems. GTAC surely has developed an internal operating plan for the Penokee mine.

In absence of such information going to the public, there are two consequences. One is the kind of cynicism expressed at the Cable meeting. The other is that the public will have to wait for the permitting process to unfold for information on how the company is going to handle runoff into the Bad River watershed, how they will prevent contaminating groundwater and wetlands, how solid waste materials will be stored and how the mine will be reclaimed once its useful life is over.

The meeting closed with Kebec asking for letters of opposition to be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said 900 had been signed to date. A good number of the attendees signed.

The “conversation” ended and people left to drive to their homes in the cars, made mostly of steel derived from iron ore.

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  • tjmaclay

    Mr. Torinus ( after years of journalism) offers somewhat of a puff piece on an important issue central to the manner by which we are governed. It appears the republicans in our state government have been bought. Prostituted.
    But then, appearances are a matter of perception.

    At least Torinus is drawing attention to an important issue.

    Critical to the compromise of our natural resources of this state in legislation is the adoption of SB 1 a few years ago. With that legislation, it was made clear that money buys influence, profits for some, and denigrated resources.

    But then, what else is new? This has been the story of this state since european settlement.

    Hypocrisy is a hard thing to measure.

    • JohnTorinus

      I want to see the mining company’s EMS.

      • Barbara With

        trust me, we ALL want to see the mining company’s EMS but since they aren’t really a mining company, have never mined iron ore and two thirds of their executive staff are lobbyists, why should you expect anything of real merit? In fact, Bob Sietz is not only a GTac lobbyist but a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity who was behind the smear campaign during the Iron County Board elections, wherein the Koch Brothers poured $100,000 into the area with misleading propaganda mailings to defeat the SCIENTIST who was running. Can you say “conflict of interests?”

      • Barbara With

        but not any of the other facts that surround this? Wow.

      • Harry Ol.

        Why? the mining company’s modus operandi is clearly apparent — keeping it under the table as much as possible — the quid pro quo exchange of 700,000 (and… how much more?) was exchanged for “legislative services.” In this case, the mining company wrote their own bill to remove environmental protections and indemnify the company from as many future, potential liabilities as possible.

        What part of “no one in the legislature sponsored this bill or attached their own name to it, because it was drafted, shaped and hand-crafted by G-tac” don’t you get?

        That’s how these people do business.

        Whatever’s in the EMS you’re so concerned about is irrelevant if the state’s ming law’s been re-written to remove existing legal protections, and to create the administrative step of allowing the State of Wisconsin to cover G-tac’s ass through the state DNR being allowed to “provide an exemption for a mining corporation from any part of the provisions of the mining bill.”

        That’s not an EMS, it’s a CYA for Chris Cline and a stiff, raised middle finger to the people living in the area.

        • JohnTorinus

          I don’t agree that an EMS is “irrelevant. We have one at my company, and it is very relevant. Our customers insist that we are ISO14000, and that requires an EMS.
          Nor am I as cynical about the agency experts who will conduct the permitting process. I think they will surface all the issues that an EMS would encompass.

          • Will Pipkin

            I agree, John. An EMS is very important. And, I don’t expect to see one until the company submits its permit application.

            Facts: No taconite mine in the world has operated without being cited and fined for pollution violations. Taconite typically (always?) co-exists with pyrite, and most pyrite contains sulfides. When these materials are exposed to water sulfuric acid is created, and this is what causes “acid mine runoff”.

            A GTac EMS would have to address these issues. If we were to take your advice we would withhold all judgement about the ability of GTac to mine without environmental harm until that EMS and permit application are submitted. You seem to suggest that we should not, in the meantime, bring any of the following facts to light:

            Neither GTac nor it’s parent company Cline Natural Resources Group have ever mined iron ore. NRG has a substantial track record of environmental violations at their substantial coal mining operations. GTac’s lead engineer, Bill Williams, is wanted in Spain for poisoning groundwater by implementing a plan at odds with the approved plan at a mine where he was the engineer in charge.

            Moreover, the change in mining laws (written by GTac)

  • B Ton

    It would be nice to see some objective and scientific discussions of this topic. I did not attend because I figured the deck was stacked against GTAC and I know all the arguments against the mine. I do recall a few years ago at a Lakes Association meeting there was discussion of ways that the mine could be worked and the environment maintained. It would be nice to get back to those discussions. We need both in the Northwoods as the economy, education and quality of life issues are important and there has to be a balance. At least it would be nice if there was.

    • JohnTorinus

      GTAC needs to come forward with an operating plan that includes an EMS, environmental management system. Many companies that are ISO14000, an international standard for managing emissions and wastes from their processes, have such management systems. Once we see how GTAC intends to handle runoffs, waste rock and air emissions, we can make a better judgement about the tradeoffs between the world’s need for iron and the desire to protect the natural world.
      You guessed right. There was little balance at the Cable “conversation.”

    • Barbara With

      There is plenty of scientific evidence. Plenty. Here is Tom Fitz, one of the panelists from the other night, along with Dr. Joseph Skulan, also a very competent and degreed scientist, trying to dispel the GTac propaganda that they did not find any dangerous geology in the hills. the DNR has stated for years that these rocks have been there, but GTac, in their application, claimed to not have found anything.

    • Barbara With

      Here is Skulan, along with Jason Huberty, one of the world’s experts on iron ore mining, testifying that the sulfide would be dangerous.

  • Paul Butterbrodt

    Get informed on this issue! Tjmaclay is right to characterize this as a puff piece. Attending one meeting didn’t provide you with much information to make an informed comment.

    Just to begin with, GTAC stated at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in their first public meeting annoucing their intentions to develop this iron mine, that they would abide by the current state mining regulations. That was the first lie from GTAC.

    If one does some research into the global iron market, one might find that the chances for this mine to ever go into profitable production are extremely limited. It is the opinion of many that GTAC seems to have been running a scam to develop something that looks like a mine on paper, to be sold to an international mining interest. Their lack of effort to deligently perform the necessary preliminary work that leads to a permit application, or an EIS, or your anticipated EMS, belie their stated intentions.

    As for the passion level of the people who live in this region, there is little history of mine run-off ever being pristine. This mine threatens the lives and livelyhood of all who live in the region. Of course, passions remain high.

    If you would like to further inform yourself on this issue, this is a good place to start:

    • JohnTorinus

      Clearly you are better informed than me when you cite “the opinion of many.”
      I reported on one element of the complicated dynamics surrounding this issue from one meeting. Thought I accurately captured the tone of the opposition. One blog piece wasn’t meant to be the full book on this matter.
      How do you know how much I know about this issue beyond that?

      • Sibley

        Because if you did know something beyond that, your blog piece would have supported the people that are against the mine….period.

  • Barbara With

    As the man who approached me after the presentation and said, “I have been a journalist for 50 years and you are no journalist,” I would have assumed, before you report that the mining company “was pushing for law changes from the get-go,” you do a very poor job of being a “professional” reporter. When I told you we have it on tape, you denied that we did without even investigating. You also have your facts wrong, that I do not “run” the WCMC nor is it based on Madeline Island. You also refused to give me your name so I could email you proof.

    Because of your obvious lack of “professional journalist” ethics, like, oh, say, investigating your claims, you have demonstrated your utter lack of information on what the citizens of northern Wisconsin have been through concerning GTac and the stealing of our democracy.

    To that end, I am happy to provide you with the documentation, beginning with this video of evidence I have compiled that not only proves that GTac had told us they had no plans to change the law. But the documents recovered from the open records request that then-Rep. Kelda Helen Roys conducted on the mining issue clearly shows GTac lobbyists, in May 2011, actually writing the new bill. It also shows Bill Williams, in a presentation in Ashland in July 2011 denying that there was new legislation out there. This is clearly misleading andcould be construed as fraud (deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage).

    It also shows how, at the first hearing in West Allis in December 2011 the Democrats on the committee objecting passionately to even introducing the bill because they had no input on it whatsoever. Also is the runaround that everyone got from the Republicans and GTac about who wrote the bill. Jeff Stone is seen perjurying himself by claiming he had no idea who wrote it, when, in fact, he did, and later claimed that he was one of the authors.

    What is not included in the video is the evidence that was uncovered by Meg Heinz, who did her thesis on this subject, and the fact that during the last hearing that was held in January 2013, people were told they would email in their testimony to Sen. Tom Tiffany’s office. However, after the hearing, Tiffany refused to release the results of those emails. Thanks to Heinz’ research, we discovered that of the 1,042 emails sent to him that day, only 6 were in support of changing the laws. to some, Tiffany’s refusal to release the votes might be considered election fraud.

    Also conveniently omitted from your highly subjective, error-laden piece above is the support of most every community around the Lake Superior basin who have worked hard to bring the truth to light–that this mine will be more detrimental to this area, our health, our economy, our environment and even went to Madison to try and dispell the huge amounts of propaganda that the Republicans, WMC and GTac were spewing concerning how badly we needed this mine. Listen to elect officials plead with the public, the press and the Republicans to listen to our grave concerns.

    Also listen to the testimony of the Republicans, telling us that the DNR will no longer have control over the project, instead they have been moved from oversight to permitting.

    And since when does any company get to hire an security company that carries semi-automatic weapons without proper licenses and without adhering to the standards of Wisconsin law for identification?

    Lastly, how conveniently you dismiss the facts that Gtac President Bill Williams has been indicted in Spain for crimes against the environment over there. If you don’t read Spanish, perhaps you can find a translator and read the court documents for yourself. The article below was translated by professional translators and researched by several member of WCMC. That is, of course, as a “professional journalist” you would conduct such an investigation before you level untrue allegations against me.

    So please, stop claiming to be a “professional journalist” and come out of the closest for what you really are–another uniformed apologist for this awful excuse for “jobs.” I don’t know you, I don’t know if you really are a right-wing nut job who will simply refuse to look at the clear evidence, or if you are just misguided and overworked and don’t have time to really do your job. Whichever it is, whenever you are ready to investigate the facts and report the truth, I’m all ears. Until then, you have proven yourself to be just another hack writer trying to use your opinion as truth. But we are used to that here in Fitzwalkerstan.

    • JohnTorinus

      For the record, absent information from GTAC on its operating plan, I have not taken a position on the mine.
      For the record, also, you are quite good at invective.

      • Paul Butterbrodt

        For the record, you’re quite good at pointing fingers at others, without acknowledging the image in the mirror in front of you.

      • Zom

        For the record, your writing sounds like the work of an imperious buffoon.

      • Harry Ol.

        For the record;

        • the company’s failure to disclose that same “operating plan,” and
        • the company’s massive ‘investment’ in politicians, which they expected to remain secret

        should tell you everything that you need to know:

        • the operating plan is “take out guaranteed profit while minimizing potential liability.

        There’s nothing more to say……. If you want to see a fictional re-telling, or get a closer look at the mindset of the company, go see that movie with the 3-D blue aliens, ‘Avatar.’

      • Barbara With

        You know what John? You are right on that. My tone in those posts is invective. I apologize for that.

        But understand…we DO have the evidence of everything we say. Philomena has the evidence of the dead zone in the St. Louis River where the wild rise was destroyed. Her people will suffer terribly if that mine were to go in.

        I have been tracking the propaganda for years. And every time someone like you posts something like this, as if we are just crack pots, and only Tom Fitz has the truth, you discount the volume of evidence that many have gathered. I have dedicated much of my time trying to get the truth out there. Not to prove that I am right, but to educate people and give them a chance to decide for themselves.

        Of course it is totally my opinion that Walker should be indicted. And I support your right to think otherwise. But you simply cannot say that “everyone knew they wanted to change the law from the get-go.” That is an outright lie. We have hundreds of people who remember well that meeting, and the audio tape of the company telling us, on two different occasions that they were not.

        Then there was the time that Todd Richmond of the AP wrote the article on Ho Chuck Chairman John Greendeer’s State of the State, which was an beautifully delivered speech on why there will and should be no mine. Richmond’s headline was “Ho Chunk Willing to Compromise On Mining.” By the time we tracked down all the AP outlets who had run the false statements, I learn that they do not fact check Mr. Richmond’s stuff because “We pay hundreds of thousands of dollar to get the AP so we don’t have to.” This kind of propaganda muddies what are already very very complicated waters.

        So yes, I am exhausted. And if you have a cabin near the mine site, I would respectfully request that you take some time to investigate the facts of who GTac is, the fraud they have perpetuated, what we up here have been through, and why we are so adamant about not allowing this company in particular to ruin our water and air as Williams did in Spain.

        Thank you.

  • Barbara With

    Oh I see. So you edit out the facts. Speaks volumes about who you are.

  • Barbara With

    Well I will be glad to advertise that on a much broader basis.

  • Barbara With

    I am surprised, considering your vast credentials, that you are going to let all the false information in this article stand. Did you even watch the video of GTacs Matt Fifield saying they had no intention to change the law? Did you watch the elected officials from the LAke Superior Basin pleading in their press conferences? Did you read the article and download the docs from the Spanish court? Or will you just leave all your slanted misinformation as it stands? Really?

    • JohnTorinus

      I’m the “slanted” party?

      • Paul Butterbrodt

        Yes, Mr. Torinus, you are taking a biased stand.

        Your blog was not merely “reporting” observatons from the meeting. It was filled with condescension, and ended in a line that implied that all in attendance were hypocrites for using products made from steel—as if, THIS mine was the only viable source of iron on this planet.

        If you’re merely “reporting”, why the need to disparage the character and stance of the panel members at this meeting?

        • JohnTorinus

          A blog, of course, is not meant to be pure reporting. It is analysis with a point of view. There is some hypocrisy in wanting mining in someone else’s back yard.

          • Paul Butterbrodt

            There is some hypocrisy in dismissing the point of view of others, while defending your own stance as having merit as a valid opinion.

            There is some hypocrisy in calling out others as hypocrites for defending an incursion into their backyard, when a similar defense from incursion is not needed in your own backyard.

          • JohnTorinus

            FYI: It is in my backyard. I have a cabin near the proposed mine site.
            Your definition of hypocrisy is overly broad.

          • Paul Butterbrodt

            OK, sir, I will narrow the field of my hypocrisy scope, if you will answer the question I posed to you. It is not I who cast the first iron nugget of hypocrisy here.

            Also, I am glad to hear you have property in the area. That much we have in common, as I also have a second home (kept since childhood) which is 16 miles from the proposed mine site.

            I sincerely hope as a local property owner in the areaa, that you take a stronger interest in studying the record of GTAC thus far in this process. GTAC’s record indicates that they are unwilling, or unable, to perform the due deligence that would be required to assemble an EMS plan. Get comfortable, while you are waiting. It will be a long time before that EMS materializes.

            I also encourage you, as does Jim elsewhere here, to contact Mike Wiggins, the Bad River Tribal Chairman. And again, if you find emotional responses too much to bear, please peruse the Woodsperson blog. I think you will find it to be a very level-headed review of the issues surrounding this proposed mine.

          • At Least Try to Get it Right

            Make up something about the person you are arguing with…per Bob Seitz. (Who said they want mining in someone else’s backyard?)

          • JohnTorinus

            That is inherent in the position of mine opponents. No getting around it.

      • At Least Try to Get it Right

        Answer a question with a question, per Bob Seitz…..and then…..

  • recubejim

    Let’s say the place where your family had lived for 600 or more years and depended on for their continued existence was being threatened by a gang with a clear record for reckless disregard for life and lies. Would you be ”inflamed” or would maybe passionate would be a better choice of words? The Ojibwe People of Wisconsin and specifically Bad River reservation are not a ”once proud nation” …. they are Proud and I am happy and proud to stand with my friends of all ethnic backgrounds until this failed genocidal mine is merely a dusty footnote in a proud history of Wisconsin. And if you think genocidal is inflamed rhetoric please talk to Mike Wiggins, Bad River Tribal Chairman. He is a much more patient man than I am. I think you will come away with a new perspective.

    • JohnTorinus

      I appreciate your perspective and the tone of your message.

  • Barbara With

    FYI for those reading this, here is a piece on Mr. Torinus’ Nature Conservancy.

    • JohnTorinus

      For the record, TNC opposed the mining bill. Does that confound you?

  • At Least Try to Get it Right

    Well, thanks for showing up! I’m surprised you wrote that GTac is doing core sampling right now. You know that’s not true, right? You know they have laid people off (or whatever they are calling it) and the environmental studies have stopped? You do know they said they weren’t going to change the laws, right? The day you wrote your ending about people driving home in cars, did you drive your car home…your car that uses water? Did you drink any water that day? (Just kidding. We’ve heard that line many times and it sounds more childish every time.)

  • Pat

    Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is on video admitting to a journalist that yes, the mining company wrote the bill. He says it twice, as a matter of fact. Did you read the bill, Mr. Torinus? I did, and so did all or most of the people responding to this blog. Do you realize, at the last minute, they added a little phase admitting that the mine would cause environmental damage – they made sure their behinds would be covered when the damage was done. As a property owner up there, are you aware that if your well runs dry or is contaminated, you can’t sue the DNR or the mining company for damages? It’s in the bill. They won’t buy bottled water for you, either. Are you aware the communities in the area will be almost entirely responsible for repairing the roads after trucks that haul the iron ore tear them up? Higher taxes for you and everyone else up there. Have you ever been to the areas in W. VA and PA where there were mountaintop removals due to coal mines? Have you seen the poverty of those areas and the devastation? I have. It’s not pretty. There are places where there can be iron ore mines that do not tower over watersheds. The Penokees is not one of them.

  • Pat

    Also, are you aware of how many mining companies in the U.S. have mined and destroyed the environment, then declared bankruptcy and left the area and the state’s taxpayers are responsible for the millions of dollars of reclamation? Look it up.

    • JohnTorinus

      Look, gentle readers, my blog was one narrow slice on a very, very, very complicated issue. It was not an attempt to cover the water front on the everything to do with this proposed mine. No one of legions of my critics has said what I “reported” on the Cable meeting was inaccurate. It wasn’t just a piece of reporting; it had a tad of analysis, too, based on a long involvement with this matter.
      Please check out my previous blogs on the subject, and you will see that I have been consistent in my viewpoint on how the mining company ought to conduct itself (not good to date) and how the permitting process should work.
      That said, I would suggest to the critics of the mine that name calling and invective will not win the minds of those in the majority who have to make the ultimate decisions. Passions are legitimate, but they need to be mixed with sweet reason to win the day.

      • Will Pipkin

        About an hour after you posted this I posted my accounting of the inaccuracies in your reporting of the event, and the shortcomings in your analysis of the issues. I hope you will find there a surplus of sweet reason.

        What exactly, has been your “long involvement” in this matter?

        • Sibley

          I’m still waiting for the reply to this one……

      • At Least Try to Get it Right

        You say here no one said what you reported was inaccurate. Before you made that comment, I wrote, “I’m surprised you wrote that GTac is doing core sampling right now. You know that’s not true, right? You know they have laid people off (or whatever they are calling it) and the environmental studies have stopped? You do know they said they weren’t going to change the laws, right?” PS) I am not a mine critic, I am a grandmother for the water, a protector for future generation. Name calling and trying to make those concerned about clean water for future generations seem unhinged with an article sprinkled with untruths follows the talking points of Bob Seitz, lobbyist for the mine.

      • jhinwb

        hey John,
        yr blog article sounded so much like something you might have written in the late 70’s while at the WB Daily News. I enjoyed your attempt to deal with such a hot issue. I personally hate the idea of a mine like that in Wisconsin. Talk to anyone who has any experience with the Minnesota taconite mines.

  • Will Pipkin

    I co-organized the event in Cable. I thus can speak with authority on a few things written by John about the event. As a consumer of information, and as a writer myself, I also have a take on John’s writing and reporting.

    My general feedback is that this essay is definitely not robust traditional journalism. Like all works this piece has bias and is selective in what it reports. However, the bias here is overt and evident. The selective reporting is broad and the slant is huge. I’ll make my case sentence by sentence.

    Sentence 2: I found this to be a problematic sentence on several levels.

    It fails to capitalize Community Conversation, which was the actual title of the *series* to which this event belonged. It also fails to mention that the event was sponsored by the Forest Lodge Library. Further, putting the term “community conversation” in quotes, effectively says it is “so-called”, not really what it purports to be.

    The phrase “walked into” has a strong cultural meaning, especially framed as it was in this sentence. Anything one “walks into” is a mistake, a bad experience – one which could have been avoided had one just looked ahead. “Oh man, she really walked into it.” “Oh, I walked into that one.”

    The sentence concludes saying he was “…taken aback at the one-sided, inflamed, anti-mine rhetoric.” I agree that the panel was largely one-sided (purposefully-so), and that the panel largely pushed anti-mine rhetoric. However, I would not call it “inflamed”. It was passionate. No one used profanity. Mine opponents spoke with knowledge, and did not mis-characterize facts (aside from Nick Vander Puy’s “we’re from Missouri” remark). Anger was respectfully expressed. Passionate: yes; inflamed: no.

    Facts were omitted and the tenor of the meeting was reported in an inflamed way. I assess this sentence as clearly biased and slanted.

    Sentence 3: The film was not produced by Al Jazeera America. It was commissioned by them. The film was actually produced by 371 Productions of Milwaukee.

    Sentence 4: Again, all reporting has bias and selects what to cover. “Wisconsin’s Mining Standoff” is no exception. The producers included two company interviews and one pro-mine public official. I don’t think they were trying to be impartial. On the contrary, 371 picked particular issues to illuminate, and thus stuck it to the company. I like it when a journalist will take great pains to expose truth, thus making the powerful uncomfortable. Where John sees a passing attempt at impartiality, I see hardly any at all. I see tough questions and catching subjects in lies. John’s choice of words and analysis are strong indicators of bias and slant.

    Sentence 6: The phrase “over the top” is used. See “walked into”, “inflamed”, and “passing attempt”. I have the same analysis here, with this verdict: such phrase choices contribute to bias and slant.

    Sentence 7: As Barbara With points out elsewhere she does not “run” the WCMC, nor is the organization based on Madeline Island.

    Sentence 11: This sentence only makes sense if John can cite evidence of the company wanting changes in law from the very beginning. I have seen the video evidence to the contrary, and have talked directly with several people who saw it live. John dismisses Barbara’s assertion of fact without stating one of his own. His analysis appears biased and slanted.

    Sentence 17: Nick Vander Puy did not start the camp. It was started by members of the Lac Courte Orielles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

    Sentences 18-20 Nick Vander Puy did say it that way, which I thought was odd. In the moment, no one took him to mean that we literally are from Missouri, but simply that opponents have a “show me” attitude when it comes to clean tanonite mining. Reporting it this way seems to diminish Vander Puy’s credibility.

    Sentence 22: Ogitchidaa is not a moniker (nicknake), but a title (honor), as would be “Free Mason” or “Member of Congress”. John’s reporting on Nick’s background is inaccurate and vaguely disparaging.

    Sentences 23-26: This portion of the essay refers to Tom Fitz’ analysis. It mentions asbestos, which took up, perhaps, one quarter of the science Dr. Fitz spoke to. John did not mention Dr. Fitz’ information on things like overburden, pyritic rocks, dry stacking, sulphuric acid runoff, and the general hydrology of the mine site – which all point to the probable poisoning of water, which is typical, Dr. Fitz said, of this kind of mining. Possibly poisoned water would be, I think, another ‘potential negative for the mine’. Omitting this part of the story adds significant amounts of bias and slant to the essay.

    Sentences 29 and 30: I find this to be inaccurate reporting of this exchange. The questioner insisted that IF the mining company could operate the mine with no environmental harm, and could prove that ahead of time, would the panelists agree to support the project. The questioner indeed got several answers. Alternately they said that no taconite mine has ever operated without polluting water (Vander Puy), that the company could not be believed if it did submit a plan that projected zero harm (Kebec), that GTac has a history of lying (With), and even that it would be very, very difficult to achieve a no-harm mine plan (Fitz). The panel refused to go along with the questioner’s hypothetical idea. Suggesting they did not answer again indicates significant bias and slant on John’s part.

    Last sentence: This is over the top cynically critical analysis designed to dismiss as hypocritical the fervent feelings of those present. I rhetorically ask, from what professional journalistic style sheet is this drawn?

    The sum of all this is that if one is wants an accurate story about the film screening and discussion in Cable, be sure to check out the reporting of it in the Sawyer County Record. Mr. Terrell Boettcher renders an accurate, unslanted account with imperceptible levels of bias.

    • Lendved

      As the other co-organizer of the Cable event…and someone who can thus also speak with some authority…I would first say that I am grateful to Mr. Torinus and his wife for attending the event, and I in no way felt he was disparaging our efforts by saying, in his blogpost, that he walked into a community conversation rather than that he had attended a Community Conversation sponsored by the library.

      I am also grateful to Mr. Pipkin for making the connection with 371 Productions that enabled us to screen the documentary…and for assembling the panel. Although I admit to having been somewhat alarmed by the tenor of some of the remarks made, I absolutely respect the work the panelists have done…and their determination to break the news we do not read or hear much of in mainstream media.

      I also absolutely respect Mr. Torinus. Don’t just take my word that he is a thoughtful and decent man. You can google him.

      Broad consensus. Civil discourse. Are these all completely out the window? One of my objectives…with the Community Conversation program…is that it would be a way for people to share their interests, experience, expertise….and issues they are passionate about…I hope it can be a place where people can share information…and where differing opinions can expect to receive honest and respectful consideration. ( you can say that I’m a dreamer. But, I’m not the only one.)

      The bravest man at that event may have been the one who, towards the end asked “what if they could 100% guarantee that the mine would be safe, what then?” While Ms. Kebec offered an impassioned and entirely legitimate response, this question came from a gentle Buddhist man who has a considerable understanding of and sympathy for the history of the indiginous peoples of this land…and their treatment at the hands of the government …and is probably not pro-mine. But, he is a realist…and, like Mr. Torinus’ ironic remark…recognizes that most everybody got there in a car…and they sure aren’t made of nano particles yet.

      It is my hope that we can share information … and work towards a consensus solution that serves the common good. That considers history and science and spirituality and commerce…and thinks of the future while weighing the necessities of now.

  • Bobby L Gee

    I’d like to comment from a household who are Legacy Club members of the Nature Conservancy. Last fall we took a trip to the Caroline Lake site that is run by the Nature Conservancy and then hiked around on the Tyler Forks quite a bit. The first thing that came to our minds is that the minute you start setting hi-explosive charges and blasting away the mountaintop that is the Penokee ridge, you’ve immediately lost thousands of acres of actual wetland, plus whatever pristine qualities of the Tyler Forks river or Caroline Lake or the Bad River that make those places “exceptional” rivers in the view of experts in natural resources conservation. You know, the stuff of which “Nature Conservancy” is built?

    There’s nothing “over the top” about trying to protect that. Further–all questions about blasting a 1,500-foot deep hole in the midst of wetlands and wild river headwaters aside–once we learned from Dr. Skulan that a large part of the overburden of that super-low-grade taconite is iron pyrite, and that it would be reduced to dust in the process of taconite milling, and that dust would then mix with rainfall and atmospheric moisture to turn to sulphurica acid, then all suggestions of proceeding with this mine should have been answered as follows: No. Just, no.

    Besides being a board member of Wisc. Nature Conservancy, you, the author of this blog are certainly well skilled in serigraphic printing. That’s great. I’m sure you’ve provided gainful employment for hundreds of people. However, that is not the same as having a grounding in geological sciences, nor in ecology, nor in biological sciences, nor in microbiology, nor in plant taxonomy, nor in wetland management, and on and on.

    I would suggest to the owner of this blog that you start to learn about these subjects, and put aside your ideology, because this sort of offering is NOT why our household has donated thousands of dollars to the Nature Conservancy. We’re not looking for a corporate spin on matters that predate the emergence of the modern corporation by 4,000,000,000 years.

    • JohnTorinus

      As I stated in a previous blog, the Wisconsin chapter of TNC opposed the mining bill.
      Agreed. I am not a scientist, but I have been listening to the scientists and will continue to learn more. There have no definitive analyses of the total eco-dynamics that I know of. And, as I have said many times before, the company has not divulged its plans for managing the environmental impacts of the proposed mine. That needs to be disclosed to the public, and I assume it will be during the public permitting process. I want to see GTAC’s EMS.
      There have been slices of scientific fact and opinions from individuals, some knowledgeable, but the whole picture has not emerged.
      Clearly, you have seen enough scientific input to reach your conclusions. That, of course, is your prerogative. Please allow me the preogative of withholding judgement until all the facts are disclosed.

      • Paul Butterbrodt

        Here is some information regarding GTAC’s lack of commitment to perform any of the serious preliminary work that is necessary for the development of any mine.

        You might also want to research the SB1 legislation. The “public” has been removed from the permit process.

        There will be no EMS for you to review.

  • Ros

    Your information is incorrect. GTAC promised, in a public meeting, that they had no intention of changing Wisconsin mining law. They said this while they were paying off lawmakers and they subsequently WROTE a new mining law in Wisconsin. You watched the movie, you saw the documentation on this.
    Your last line is so cynical. Surely you must realize that we are all ‘trapped’ more or less in a consumer economy which offers few options. Yet, in the midst of this, we are struggling to do better and in the north, “doing better” means that we must protect a major watershed which empties not only into the drinking glasses of residents but into Lake Superior.
    You should also consider doing better with your poorly researched article. Or maybe you don’t care about water?

  • Bobby L Gee

    I see this is back on this blog and inviting of comment. So, this was billed and promoted as part of the effort of groups organized against the Penokee Hills mine. I wouldn’t have expected impartial treatment going into the presentation.

    Secondly, on the earth science of this situation, I don’t know why the audience member’s question about ” if the environmental management of the mine’s runoffs and waste materials were pristine” went unanswered. But the geology of the Penokees has been on file in Wisconsin for decades and decades, and the presence of bands of iron pyrite, or iron sulfied, has been well known lo those many decades. Are GTAC and their boosters seriously disputing that there’ll be megatons of iron sulfide, that is, sulfur, present after blasting, grinding, and reducing the mountain to dust? Can that even seriously be called “waste materials that are pristine?” Who raises such a question with a straight face, anyway?

    Both Jason Huberty and Joseph Skulan, well-educated geologists, testified on this before the Legislature back in 2012. Why does your blog not even mention this, speaking of impariality?

    As for the need for more core samples, why have the mine proponents and GTAC insisted that the 200-plus core samples taken by US Steel (and held by Russell Gordy’s group, an enterprise that has a vested interest in seeing the mine go forward) are useless, and now have to be re-drilled? Why is that? Why would a rational person NOT be skeptical and suspicious of motives when data already known is being tossed aside? Because it doesn’t fit the GTAC narrative?

    So many questions, so few answers from the GTAC side. Instead, you have Pres. Bill Williams calling the opponents’ science and data “witchy stuff.” Talk about your impartiality eh?

    • JohnTorinus

      I don’t recall writing about Williams’ comments.

      • Bobby L Gee

        No, but I was supplying background. The PHEP and Citizens Concerned group (on Facebook) have video recorded dozens, nay hundreds, of hours of mining impact meetings and the three-on-one meetings held by GTAC’s officers with local folks. In one of those, Williams displays his contempt for whatever knowledge base these opponent groups have built up, dismissing it as “witchy stuff.” You can’t make that up! And even if you could, it’s still on videotape. I think David Joe Bates of Bad River has that video.