Threats & Challenges

Pipelines

It is the Bad River Tribal Natural Resource Department’s (BRNRD) responsibility (as stated in the NRD’s Mission Statement) to provide technical assistance to the Bad River Tribe in the protection, conservation, development and management of the natural resources throughout the Bad River Reservation and its treaty fishing waters in Lake Superior, thereby ensuring access to traditional pursuits by present and future members of the Tribe. The following pipeline information is provided to you by the BRNRD:

Land Ownership*

Pipeline Informational Fact Sheets

Tribal Government Press Releases and Actions 

Bad River Community Informational Pipeline Meetings 

  • The BRNRD held the first of a series of Community Informational Pipeline Meetings on December 15, 2016 at the Bad River Casino Convention Center. (flyer pdf)

*High resolution printouts available upon request, contact GIS & Map services in-person or via email:  gspec@badriver-nsn.gov

Mining

Lake Superior and the lands surrounding her provide countless ecosystem resources that support economic, social, environmental, and strategic purposes critical to the security and sustainability of the communities and nations dependent upon her. Many of these ecosystem resources are central to the resource practices protected under treaties between the Anishinaabeg (Chippewa) people and the United States Government.

From an Anishinaabeg world-view perspective, the health of the waters, wetlands, and ecosystems are a tangible representation of our values of caring for the environment. For example, the Bad River Reservation hosts approximately 40% of all coastal wetlands within the Lake Superior Basin. These coastal wetlands include the internationally-celebrated Bad River-Kakagon Sloughs Complex, recognized under the RAMSAR Convention for Wetlands and awarded the Blue Globe Award in 2012. The Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs are home to many threatened and endangered species such as the piping plover, trumpeter swan, yellow rail, bald eagle, wood turtle, and ram’s-head lady-slipper orchid. As one of the few remaining, fully-functional Great Lakes estuaries, these wetlands are also critical for supporting the biodiversity of Lake Superior’s fisheries.

In 2011, a Florida-based coal mining company proposed developing an open-pit iron mine in the headwaters that feed into the Reservation, its wetlands, and Lake Superior. The iron ore formation targeted for development and de-regulation includes fifty-six miles of perennial river and stream frontage on more than 20 waterways, all of which ultimately flow into the Bad River.

How Mining Impacts the Landscape

The 2007 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) shows that enormous quantities of hazardous substances come from hard rock mining, which also have a significant presence on the National Priorities List of toxic “Superfund” sites.

In the Lake Superior Basin, low-grade iron mining is conducted exclusively by open-pit mining methods. The scale of the land alteration associated with modern iron mining is enormous, and is unlike the historic mining of the 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine project covers an area of approximately 20,000 acres. In Wisconsin, the proposed GTAC iron mine (in the headwaters of the Bad River) would generate approximately 560 million tons of tailings and 350 million tons of waste rock during the first phase of operations. Studies clearly identify the presence of acid-producing sulfide minerals which would be exposed in the mine wastes. But, the mining company and some legislators are ignoring this evidence and, in doing so, risk the health of our lands and waters.

The parent company of GTAC, a coal mining conglomerate lead by Chris Cline, has been cited 25 times for degrading the water quality at four mines; including 19 times at the Deer Run Mine, which opened only three years ago.

A survey of compliance records from 2004-2011, shows that modern iron mines are chronic polluters. Nine iron mines and related production and transport facilities in Minnesota and Michigan show dozens of air and water quality violations resulting in more than $790,000 in fines, plus cleanup orders and stipulations costing another $9.1 million. The Dober and Buck mines in Michigan killed aquatic life in 7 miles of the Iron River and damaged 10.5 miles of the Brule River.

In the Lake Superior Basin, metallic mining operations are also the largest source of mercury emissions. This neurotoxin concentrates in fish tissue and places disproportionate risk on tribal communities and their subsistence fishing practices.

At best, modern mining results in the permanent alteration of the landscape and the ecosystem services she provides. This changes the resources available to Indigenous and local peoples; thereby degrading the social landscape, as well. At worst, a variety of environmental damages and human health risks can also result. Where the proposed metallic mining projects being deregulated by some legislators would fall is unknown.

Articles Related to Local Mining
GLIFWC, 2012, Mazina’igan Supplement, Iron mining in the Lake Superior Region
GLIFWC, 2011, Iron Mining in the Lake Superior Basin, Project Report 11-1
Bad River Position Statement