Roscoe and Evelyn Churchill were right. They said from the very beginning that the Flambeau Mine would pollute the water over there, and it has.Now we have a chance to do something about it, and WRPC is asking for your help. Please see the attached letter for details and submit your written comments to the Wisconsin DNR by February 20, 2012.

Thank you for your help!”

Al Gedicks, WRPC Executive Secretary

Laura Gauger, WRPC Legal Affairs Coordinator

January 2012

The Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) is asking you to voice your support for a proposal by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to list an unnamed stream at the Flambeau Mine site (known as “Stream C”) as “impaired” due to copper and zinc toxicity.  The Flambeau Mine, owned by London-based Rio Tinto, operated near Ladysmith, WI from 1993 to 1997. According to company reports, the mine produced 181,000 tons of copper, 3.3 million ounces of silver and 334,000 ounces of gold.

The DNR recently released its proposed 2012 list of “impaired waters” – a list of lakes, rivers, and streams that are too polluted to meet state water quality standards intended to protect public health and aquatic life.  On the list is Stream C, which flows over the southeast corner of the Flambeau Mine site, close to where the ore crusher was located and other mining-related activities took place in the mid-1990s. Toxic levels of copper were discovered in the stream shortly after the mine’s closure, and the pollution continues to this day. The part of the Flambeau Mine site where Stream C is located has not been released from state reclamation requirements.

Water quality data collected by both Flambeau Mining Company (FMC; the Rio Tinto subsidiary that operated the Flambeau Mine) and the DNR since the early 2000s show that Stream C consistently has had levels of copper (and sometimes zinc) over the concentrations established by the DNR to protect surface waters from “acute toxicity.”

Stream C flows in the vicinity of the mine’s former rail spur and across a portion of the mine site that, to date, has failed to be certified by the DNR as being successfully reclaimed by FMC. From there the stream meanders through a wooded area and eventually discharges into the nearby Flambeau River.  Stream C is known to receive runoff from areas where mining wastes were stored in the past and where toxic discharges continue to this day.  A DNR-designated “reference stream” does not show toxic levels of copper or zinc. Nor do two additional small streams being monitored in the area.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and Center for Biological Diversity filed a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit against Flambeau Mining Company for its toxic discharges of metals, including copper, iron, and zinc, into Stream C and the Flambeau River; the litigation is ongoing.

In addition, because of the consistently toxic levels of copper (and sometimes zinc) that have been documented in Stream C over the past decade, WRPC petitioned the DNR in late 2010 to consider classifying Stream C as “impaired.” The inclusion of Stream C on the Department’s proposed 2012 list of “impaired waters” shows that the DNR listened to us. But it is not a done deal.

We expect Flambeau Mining Company to actively lobby the DNR to take this stream off the impaired waters list proposed by the Department (see press release from FMC – link can be found below) – there is a public comment period now underway.

WRPC is appealing to Wisconsin mining activists to submit written comments to the DNR in support of the Department’s proposal to list Stream C as impaired for copper and zinc and to ask that the DNR require Flambeau Mining Company to clean up its mess.  

Please see the next page for how to submit your comments.

Public comments are due by February 20, 2012 and can be sent via email or regular mail to:

Email:    dnrimpairedwaters@wisconsin.gov   or  AaronM.Larson@wisconsin.gov

Mail:      Aaron Larson

Wisconsin DNR

Water Evaluation Section – WT/3

101 S. Webster St.

PO Box 7921

Madison, WI 53707-7921

For more information, please go to:

1. DNR’s impaired waters webpage: http://dnr.wi.gov/org/water/wm/wqs/303d/

When the page pops up, do the following:

-Click on  Search 2012 Current, Proposed, and Restored Impaired Waters

-Next you will be asked to “Enter Water Name or WBIC.”  Enter the following:  “Stream C, trib to  Flambeau River” and click “Search”

2. Another listing on DNR’s impaired waters webpage:


When the page pops up, do either or both of the following:

-Click on 2012 Impaired Waters List  (Stream C is listed as “Unnamed” on the Excel spreadsheet)

-Or click on View a summary of the data submitted to see detailed information on Stream C

3. Flambeau Mining Company’s press release from 12/11/2011:


4. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article about the proposed impaired waters list, including a paragraph

about Flambeau and Stream C: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/135968848.html

5. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel front-page article from November 2011 about Flambeau Mine pollution:


6. WRPC website:  www.wrpc.net

-For information on our lawsuit, click on the “Flambeau Mine Lawsuit” tab at the top of the home page.  To specifically access the “Notice Letter” filed by WRPC in federal court (which includes data for the polluted discharge to Stream C), click on the third document listed under “Official Correspondence.”

Thank You!

Al Gedicks and Laura Gauger


  1. The destruction of the sanctity of our earth and her atmosphere and water for mining at a madly accelerating rate more than coincidentally parallels our rapidly increasing appetite for war and the requisite production of armaments. I am absolutely opposed to the mad assault on our earth as I am for the accompanying assault on our fellow inhabitants of this earth. They are co-dependent degenerate activities, equally obscene.

  2. It is interesting to be critical of mining while using a computer which is built and run thanks to a variety of minerals mined from the earth. It is quite amazing really to ponder how many minerals and human resources were combined to allow me to type and send.

    The mining versus the environment debate, as all simple yet effective debates go, positions two black and white issues against each other. For example, if you are for mining you are anti-environment. If you are against mining you are anti-jobs. This argument is not a fair one. It does not address our very, very strong dependence on minerals and mining. It also does not address what US government agencies are attempting to do the very best at setting up strict regulations to get it done right here rather than import the minerals from countries that have limited environmental or worker regulations. Or how much research and development by governmental agencies and industry have been conducted to make mining more efficient with far less pollution.

    It may surprise you that; the car you drive, bike you ride, bus or train you take, house or apartment you sleep in, light bulbs to read with, computers to type with, cell phones to call with, and the electricity to turn all those things on, including electricity sourced from wind turbines or solar cells, can only happen from minerals that are extracted from the earth through mining. Did I forget to mention the food we eat to nourish us, or the toothpaste to clean our teeth? How about all those electronic devices in hospitals that attempt to save our lives? Look around your house, work, school, church and tell me all the things that you see that came to be from minerals.

    I am for the environment and I am also for mining. I enjoy being outdoors camping, climbing, hiking, or kayaking. I believe the lands I enjoy outside will be protected through government regulations and public oversight. I also know that mining is a temporary land use. I can show you countless places in Minnesota that were once iron mines and are now reclaimed to be parks, mountain bike trails, lake trout habitat, golf courses, and so much more. I can show you places that were once gravel pits and quarries which are now parks, trails, wetlands, restored prairie, residential developments, shopping malls, and more.

    We need mines for the production of minerals that we depend on. We need outdoor spaces free from industry intervention to escape to. We need government and public oversight to regulate industry in order to protect our water and other natural resources. We need more highly skilled jobs that work in the mines, regulate the mines, or run the local hotel. After the mining is over we may have a new park, trail, wetland, prairie and/or lakes where the mining once was to escape to.

    This issue is not black and white. There is a balance that can be found. Let’s work towards a balance and move away from polarizing politics.