In the midst of our Poverty & the Environment series, we published a walking tour of Wisconsin’s Sokaogon Chippewa community, which had partnered with another tribe to buy a nearby zinc and copper mine and keep it from reopening. At the time of our interview with tribe member Tina van Zile, the Sokaogon Chippewas — one of the poorest tribes in the nation — were struggling to raise funds to pay their share and save their community from being overrun by miners and the accompanying land degradation and pollution.

The Sokaogon tribe just made their final $8 million mortgage payment to the BHP Billiton mining company — and BHP is donating the $8 million back to the tribe in a trust fund.

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[Tribe administrator Tony] Phillippe said Tuesday the land will be used for conservation purposes, such as public trails and parks, and the mining project will never be developed.

“The minerals underneath it are basically sacred from now on into eternity,” he said. “We own it all.”

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Woo hoo! A bit of good news, and just in time for World Environment Day!