Citizens Peacefully Defy G-Tac's "Off-Limits" Zone

About 50 people gathered on Sunday, February 16, to call on Gogebic Taconite to respect the rights of the Bad River Ojibwe and halt all mining activity in the Penokee Hills. Those who were present crossed the boundary into Managed Forest land officially deemed "closed" under a special law passed for G-Tac's benefit last fall, allowing them to close off land around a mine site that would normally allow public access without paying significant tax penalties required of all other MFL landowners.

Two groups marched from either end of the site along State Highway 77 to converge on the access road being used by G-Tac for exploratory drilling and bulk sampling activity. The group sang songs and people walked into the sunny, snow-filled woods along the access road, an old railroad siding. Although everyone who came crossed into the "forbidden zone," no police showed up and nobody was cited for trespassing.

Paul DeMain, one of the march organizers and member of the Lac Courte Orielles Band of Ojibwe, explained that the protest was being called a "Golden Goose Egg Hunt" in response to G-Tac president Bill Williams claiming that mine opponents wanted to "kill the golden goose" of economic development.

"There's a lot of dynamics to what's been going on here... There's the legal defense, there's the citizens of Iron County... trying to run for the Board of Supervisors and change the dynamics," DeMain said. "Every time we turn around, we find this company taking shortcuts."

G-Tac's mine would be 4.5 miles long and up to 1,000 feet deep, threatening the groundwater and surface water flowing north into Lake Superior at the Bad-Kakagon Sloughs, the largest wild rice beds in North America. The company started removing loose rock from the site for bulk sampling on February 17, and has ongoing test drilling operations at the site.

More snowshoe hikes are planned at the site every Saturday starting at 11 am, leaving from the LCO Harvest and Education Learning Project camp,

through March.