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Iron County Board delays action against mining protest campers

Mining
Mining

HURLEY, WI (WTAQ) - A protest camp near the Gogebic Taconite mining site is not going anywhere – at least for now.

The Iron County Board delayed action Tuesday night on seeking civil and criminal charges against members of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian tribe.

The board sent the matter back to the county’s forestry committee, which contends that tribal members violated a two-week camping permit. A one-year permit was originally issued, but the committee reversed it.

County forest administrator Joe Vairus says the site has become a squatters’ village.

Before the recent committee meeting, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal chairman Mic Isham wrote a two-page letter asking to sit down with county officials. Forestry committee member Jim Lambert said he did not see the letter, but it could be enough of a reason to delay legal action.

State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch says the tribe and the county should talk out their differences and avoid going to court.

The camp has up to 30 wigwams with members opposed to the Gogebic iron ore mine, for fear of environmental damage. The camp is located on Iron County forest land, about a mile from where Gogebic has conducted exploratory drilling for the mining project.

Tuesday night, Lac Courte Oreilles tribal member Rusty Barber offered tobacco to the County Board members as a goodwill gesture. He said the two sides should keep talking. 

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