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Opposition to Open Pit Mine Focuses on Civil Disobedience

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Debate over a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin seems to have died down a bit. Yet, players on both sides are positioning themselves. Within the last few weeks, the company Gogebic Taconite applied for an exploratory license, while an anti-mining group opened an office in Ashland to monitor developments. As WUWM’s LaToya Dennis reports, that’s not where things end – at least for mine opponents.They’ll stage a workshop in northern Wisconsin this weekend,on civil disobedience.People who attend the workshop will learn about everything from surviving in the wilderness to building blockades to climbing trees. It’s all geared to stop progress on an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills. Casey James is one of the organizers.

They call the weekend training, Central Wisconsin Action Camp.

“We pretty much decided that it’s time to kick it into full gear and have this action camp to prepare to, I guess, physically resist the Penokee mine,” James says. 

James says trainers will teach people which tactics might be most effective in certain circumstances, and about the law.

He understands protesters could be arrested or even sued.

“The choice between a lawsuit for trespassing or something or having groundwater, fresh clean groundwater for future generations, I mean I think that choice is pretty clear,” James says.

James isn’t the only one who thinks civil disobedience is a no brainer.

“There will be no mine.”

Frank Koehn says there’s no doubt, citizen action will be successful.

“I think it’s effective in spreading the word. And the more people that find out about the process that’s unfolded in the past year and a half in Wisconsin, they will at least look at this and say it isn’t fair,” Koehn says.

Koehn is president of the Penokee Hills Education Project. It formed to talk to the public about potential dangers associated with a huge open pit mine.

As for this weekend, he says he could not pass up an opportunity to network with others who oppose the mine.

A spokesman for Gogebic Taconite has said people have the right to peacefully protest things they don’t like.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.