What Does the Crandon Mine Story Mean Today?

Oct 28, 2013

Today marks 10 years since a proposal for a copper and zinc mine in Forest County came to an end.  Members of the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa and Menominee tribes gathered this weekend to celebrate…but pointed out that mining remains a controversial issue in northern Wisconsin. 

One branch of the Wolf River begins in Forest County, near the site of a mine that was once proposed.
Credit Royalbroil via Wikimedia Commons

First Exxon and later BHP Billiton proposed to open a copper and zinc mine near Crandon, Wisconsin.  But the mine site was close to the pristine Wolf River.  The Menominee Reservation was 40 miles downstream, and the Mole Lake Reservation was even closer. The tribes worried water pollution could ruin their sacred beds of wild rice.   

In 2002 the Mole Lake Sokaogon tribe won the right as a sovereign nation to set its own standards for air and water quality. 

Mole Lake Sokaogan Tribal chairman Chris McGeshick says that meant it could set strict limits on pollutants. 

“Enacting our own water quality standards.  I feel that was the turning point, where the tribe -  our rights were recognized as a government, to have the ability to adopt and enforce our own water quality regulations within this watershed.”

The following year, the nearly three-decade fight ended.  October 28th marks ten years since Mole Lake Sokaogon and Forest County Potawatomi purchased the mine site for more than 16 million dollars. 

Some see parallels between the Crandon mine story and Gogebic Taconite’s plan for a Penokee mine.  Like activist Francis Van Zile.  She was involved in the fight against the Crandon mine since the 70s. 

“People today have to remember that the state of Wisconsin is planning on opening another mine.  And what we should all, all, each and every one of us be worried about is clean water.”

About a hundred people attended Saturday’s celebration at Mole Lake.