UPDATED: Bayfield County Board Says No to Mining

January 30, 2013  by Barbara With

Photo: Barbara Gadbois

Photo: Barbara Gadbois

In a stunning 11 to 1 vote, last night the Bayfield County Board voted overwhelmingly not to support mining legislation. Citizens packed the courthouse in response to a “responsible” mining resolution that was being brought before the Board.

The only vote for the resolution was cast by Neil Schultz from Iron River, who was patched in by phone. All others, including board member Kenneth Jardine who introduced the resolution, voted against it. According to Washburn resident Roy Settgas, “Jardine stated that if the resolution was being misinterpreted to the degree it was already by members of the community, he was not in favor of the misinterpretation that would be represented in the media or state politics.”

In a standard county board format, citizens were allowed to address the board for three minutes at the beginning of the meeting. The resolution was given to the Board only four days prior, according to Board member Beth Meyers.

There were no comments in favor of the resolution, the state bill, or GTac, the mining company who wrote the bill and is proposing a 21-mile mountaintop removal open pit iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron Counties. Testimony went on for over two hours with several dozen people speaking in opposition, including many tribal members from Bad River and Red Cliff.

Idle No More outside Bayfield County Courthouse. Photo: Barbara Gadbois

Idle No More outside Bayfield County Courthouse January 29, 2013. Photo: Barbara Gadbois

Sam Morris, Red Cliff tribal member, spoke to the Board about the fact that the proposed mine site is in ceded territory where many of the graves of his relatives remain. “We can’t drink your dollar bills. You are going to blow my ancestor up and turn them to dust … How would you like it if we did that to your relatives?”

Morris was arrested at the Capitol on January 26, 2012 for playing his drum in the rotunda when mining bill AB426 was pushed through the Assembly. He is awaiting ruling on his suit against the Capitol Police officers who apprehended him and locked him in the basement of the Capitol with his drum. Ruling is expected within the next several months.

Last year, the Ashland County Ad Hoc Committee on Responsible Mining withdrew their support of a “responsible” mining resolution that was pushed through the Ashland County Board in July 2012.

Bayfield County Board members made it clear last night that any mining resolution from Bayfield County would go through the county tribal relations committee. Some are suggesting that a “no mining” resolution be adopted, much like the one Madeline Island passed in January 2012.

Before the meeting last night, local Red Cliff and Bad River members and their supporters held an Idle No More circle. Red Cliff and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa made a strong showing to send the powerful statement that there will be no mines.

UPDATES: Video of Gretchen Morris, Tatum, Savannah, Phoenix, and Lavender from Red Cliff opposing mining in the Penokee Mountains at the Bayfield County Board Meeting.

Photo: Barbara Gabois

Photo: Barbara Gabois

Photo: Barbara Gadbois

Photo: Barbara Gadbois

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