By John Meachen – Wisconsin River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited

What is more precious than gold?  Clean, cold, safe water is. Trout Unlimited and its local chapters are charged with conserving, protecting, and restoring our cold-water resources. We do this not only for trout but for all the life that flows from and depends on clean, cold, safe water. 

Because of this, the Wisconsin River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited representing Lincoln, Marathon, Price, and Taylor counties, together with the Wisconsin State Council of Trout Unlimited, stand in opposition to open pit metallic sulfide mining.

In particular, we strongly oppose the proposed mining by Green Light Wisconsin, LLC of the Bend deposit located in the Chequamegon National Forest in Taylor County and the Reef deposit located near the Eau Claire Dells in Marathon County.  GreenLight Metals, a Toronto-based company, received an exploration license on Feb. 17, 2022 to do business in Wisconsin as Green Light Wisconsin LLC.

We oppose open pit metallic sulfide mining for three reasons:

First, we oppose metallic sulfide mining because the process is inherently hazardous to the environment and especially to our clean water resources.  Metallic sulfide mining uses large amounts of water and creates permanent tailing pools which hold mine waste with water contaminated with sulfuric acid which is a byproduct of this particular mining process.  A new report prepared by Geologist Steven H. Emerman, Ph.D., for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness discusses nine separate mines operated in the United States and Canada (including Flambeau here in Wisconsin and Eagle in Michigan) and lays out the facts showing that not one of these mines has been able to operate without environmental pollution and contamination. 

Second, we oppose metallic sulfide mining in our area because the promised “local economic boom” created by mining has proven to be a myth.  Most mines, especially newer mines, only operate for a very short duration. The Flambeau mine had only 4 years of operation and the Eagle mine is planned for 12 years with closure in 2026.  Most of the promised jobs are filled by trained mining specialists. Contemporary mining is completely different from the old days of vast, multi-decade underground mines employing large numbers of people. Experience has shown time and time again that the majority of economic gains are “exported” to the mining company’s owners and stockholders, not accrued by local communities.  After the closure of metallic sulfide mines, local communities often have been left to bear the cost of environmental cleanup, suffer with lowered property values, and contend with potential groundwater contamination. 

Third, we oppose metallic sulfide mining in our area because gold is the primary mineral being sought by the current mining and exploration proposals.  Both the Bend and Reef Deposits currently being pursued by GreenLight Wisconsin, LLC are gold mines, not tied to critical minerals or even listed “green economy” minerals. The proposed mines are purely and simply for-profit gold mines.

While we understand the necessity for proven safe, responsible mining, open pit metallic sulfide gold mining is simply too great a risk to take.  

Our health, livelihoods, wildlife, tourism, and economy depend on clean, cold, safe water and that is truly more precious than gold.

John Meachen is president of the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin River Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited.