On Aug, 21, 2012, the Oneida County Board voted to end the proposed plan to lease the County Forest for metallic mining. The Lakeland Times reported that, “Since the resolution failed to receive a majority vote, mining “will no longer proceed as a policy goal for Oneida County,” Corporation Counsel Brian Desmond said. “The mining issue will be stricken from agendas (of the Forestry Committee),” he added.”
This outcome did not sit well with some supervisors, so one month later, mining was back on the agenda, this time in the P&D Committee. Committee members present that day were Scott Holewinski, Jack Sorenson, Dave Hintz and Gary Baier.
Some of the supervisors were visibly angry, one directing his ire specifically at the Town of Lynne, another proclaimed that nothing was more important than a mine. Lynne had taken a position that they would veto any attempt to rezone the Lynne site to allow a mine there, so the committee was seeking to retaliate by allowing mining in areas zoned Forestry 1-A, so that a rezone would not be required at Lynne.
The committee kept pushing this for some time until it was finally dropped in 2014 due to substantial public opposition.
Now the committee has found a new opportunity to resurrect this ploy designed to facilitate a mine at Lynne.
Because of Tom Tiffany’s law that repeals the Mining Moratorium Law, counties were given six months to develop a mining ordinance, supposedly to protect themselves. Oneida County already has a metallic mining ordinance. Early on, Dave Hintz said that “we have a good ordinance; we are in a good place.” Rather than being a process to protect the Counties, the ordinance is being constructed under threat. In Oneida County, we still don’t know who or what the source of the threat is, but apparently, the threat is that, if the counties create a “too restrictive” ordinance, they will be stripped of local control.
This seems to be more of an opportunity than a threat to some of the supervisors. Three of the supervisors on the committee that wanted to allow mining in areas zoned Forestry 1-A back in 2012, are also on the P&D Committee that is rewriting our ordinance, namely, Scott Holewinski, Jack Sorenson and Dave Hintz. Although Mr. Hintz was recently, but not currently a committee member, it is reported that he is still actively involved in the meeting discussions.
The current process is being used, to try again, to allow metallic mining in areas zoned Forestry 1-A, to “grease the skids” for a mine at Lynne.
Here is what Forestry 1-A is supposed to be about: “The purpose of the District 1-A Forestry is to protect the integrity of the county’s forested lands by preserving such land in a relatively natural state.” Let’s be crystal clear. A massive sulfide mine at Lynne does not “protect the integrity of the county’s forested lands by preserving such land in a relatively natural state.”
The committee wants us to believe that a sulfide mine is really like any non-destructive use of our forest lands. It isn’t. There is no greater change in land use anywhere in our county than a massive sulfide mine. Our ordinance needs to reflect this, but what is being proposed ignores this reality. This must be corrected.
At Lynne, Noranda proposed to remove 6.7 million tons of overburden and another two million tons of waste rock before removing any ore. When the glaciers receded thousands of years ago, they left behind vast beds of gravel, saturated with water, that cover the bedrock where the mineral deposits lie. These saturated beds of gravel are over 100 feet deep on much of our county forest lands and they cradle our lakes, streams and wetlands. The vast column of water held in these beds of gravel is intimately connected to our surface waters. It was never clear how Noranda would handle the large amount of water in those 6.7 million tons of overburden and the vast watery areas around it. In such a place, we should leave the bedrock alone.
Karl Fate, Rhinelander