Landowners and Tribal Members React to Badger Minerals Decision

Sep 30, 2020

A bend in the Wolf River, less than a half-mile from some drill sites.
Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR

The news of Badger Minerals decision not to pursue further mining exploration at an Oneida County site near the Wolf River came as a relief to some people who had been opposed to the possibility of mining in the town of Schoepke.

“It’s a huge relief, a big weight off my shoulders,” said Ronald Zabler.

WXPR first talked to Zabler in June when Badger Minerals started doing exploratory drilling on the land in eastern Oneida County.

He was opposed the possibility of sulfide mining so close to his home.

“I am relieved for not only my family and our property but for the entire area, the Wolf River, all the businesses along the wolf river,” said Zabler.

He’s not alone in the is feeling.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

After learning of the news from WXPR’s reporting, a group of people who had been against the mining for various reasons gathered near the site off Browns Road in Oneida County.

Tina Van Zile was one of those people. She’s the environmental director for the Sokaogon Chippewa Community.

“At first I was really happy. Almost tears come to my eyes. But in the back of my mind I’m like you know as long as the rocks are in the ground, I think it’s always going to be a threat. So it was a little bit of happiness, but little bit skeptical,” said Van Zile.

The property Badger Minerals was considering mining was close to tribal land. One of the Sokaogon Chippewa Community’s concerns was the impact mining might have on the nearby Wolf River.

“Everybody needs water. It’s very sacred. Especially to us, we believe everything has spirits, a living spirit,” said Van Zile. She also said the potential impact drilling might have on wild rice in the area was concerning.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

Members of the Menominee Tribe had also been opposed the mining and the possible impact on the river. The west branch of the Wolf River runs through the reservation.

Dawn Wilber is one of four tribal members that drove up after hearing the news.

“I was so excited, I just can’t even. There’s no words to tell you how when I got the word,” said Wilber.

Those feelings of excitement and relief come with some hesitation. The tribal members and people who live in the area know that just because this company decided not to drill now, there could be others in the future.

Ron James owns land down in Langlade County downriver of the site.

“It’s a temporary reprieve because the laws that created this project in the first place are still in the books,” said James.

James would like to see the law that allows for the mining in the area to be repealed.

“I’m a conservative business man, landowner who does not want to see my assets be devalued by this type of project and there’s many, many people out there who consider themselves conservatives who feel the same way,” said James.

Badger Minerals does still own land in the Town of Schoepke should it decide to mine there. Currently, it has no plans for drilling.