Wisconsin Tribes End Mining Threat by Buying Site

In a stunning victory for environmentalists and Native Americans, Wisconsin’s Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa and Forest County Potawatomi tribes announced Tuesday that they had bought the rights to a zinc and copper mine near Crandon, ending a 25-year controversy. The $16.5 million purchase was the surprise result of negotiations between the tribes and Northern Wisconsin Resources Group, a lumber company that owned the mine site. The cost of the purchase will be split between the tribes, with the Potawatomi money coming from gambling revenue and the Mole Lake money from loans. The tribes do not plan to mine the 55-million-ton zinc and copper deposit, preferring to protect the nearby Wolf River, tribal waters, rice beds, and burial grounds. Gordon Connor, a co-owner of NWRG, said the company decided to sell because the permitting processes were too costly and difficult, a fact he blamed on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.