Magazine article The Progressive

Chippewa Block Acid Shipments

Magazine article The Progressive

Chippewa Block Acid Shipments

Article excerpt

Bad River Chippewa

Reservation, Wisconsin

At down on July 22, five men lit a fire at an isolated railroad crossing, placed a drum and an eagle feather on the tracks, and set up staffs in the four cardinal directions.

With this ceremony, the activists began a protest that halted train shipments of sulfuric acid bound for Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Copper Range Corporation wanted to use the acid to extract ore from the White Pine copper mine.

The Corporation was going to try a rare form of metallic-sulfide mining--injecting sulfuric-acid solution into old mines in order to leach out the remaining ore. The project would have poured 550 million gallons of acid into underground tunnels only five miles from Lake Superior.

On July 1, the Environmental Protection Agency granted a permit for the project without holding a hearing or drafting an environmental-impact statement. Red Cliff Chippewa activist Walter Bresette resigned in protest as Indigenous Chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which formally advises the Environmental Protection Agency. Bresette then decided to take more direct action--he helped form Anishinabe Ogitchida (Protectors of the People), the group that blockaded the tracks.

The only railroad tracks leading to the mine cut through a Chippewa reservation, passing over crumbling trestles that traverse wetlands. The Bad River tribal government secured a temporary federal injunction against the acid shipments because of the unstable trestles. …

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