NOTE: There is only ONE public hearing for the mining ordinance; it is at 6 p.m. at Rhinelander High School auditorium. We apologize for the error.
BY NAOMI KOWLES
For the Star Journal
The public will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on Oneida County’s mining ordinance amendment June 6. A public hearing will take place at 6 p.m. at the Rhinelander High School auditorium.
Barring any changes, the amendment could move to the county board meeting on June 19 for approval. The ordinance rewriting is being undertaken to bring the county’s mining ordinance into compliance with Wisconsin Act 134 passed last year, which removed the moratorium on sulfide mining.
Members of Oneida’s Planning and Development Committee have been working long hours, sometimes with meetings as frequently as every other day, to assist in drafting the amendment, according to chairperson Dave Hintz.
A member of the Lac Du Flambeau tribe, Brooks Big John, as well as their vice chairman John Johnson, was on hand at May’s county board meeting to present a written statement of opposition to mining in Oneida County.
Big John noted that the tribe “doesn’t sit too well” with threats to the environment, and asked for a meeting between the tribe and county board to discuss the issue, a request he said had been ignored previously.
The process of amending the ordinance has been a controversial one, with protests from citizens arising early on when the results from the first phase of the project, identifying deficiencies in the current ordinance, were placed under work-product privilege.
At April’s county board meeting, the board passed a resolution to allow the P&D committee to waive the attorney-client privilege in regards to future paperwork.
“It is vitally important from the very start of this process that we operate in an environment that the people know what we are doing,” Supervisor Jack Sorenson said. “To run this process behind a closed door is the worst idea we could ever have. If we go forward with mining, I don’t want somebody to say, ‘All this was developed behind a closed door and the public was taken out of the equation.’”
The board has hired attorney William Scott to draft a new mining ordinance, and in May voted to allot an additional $15,000 to the original $20,000 assigned for the rewrite. Hintz said this phase would be made easier thanks to Marathon County completing their new ordinances, a project that would put Oneida county farther ahead in creating their own by building off Marathon County’s new ordinance.
The Lynne deposit, located on Oneida County land, has been the focal point of controversy. Noranda Explorations first explored the site in the early 1990s, and more recently, Tamerlane Ventures attempted to lease the land for mining purposes just a couple years back. According to documents prepared by Noranda about 5.61 million tons of reserves with a grade of 9.27 percent of zinc sit at an average of 50 feet below the surface. The deposit area is covered by a layer of groundwater reaching nearly to the surface wetlands, where many of the original exploratory drilling sites are still marked by posts that rise from a bed of brush grasses, mud, and water.