Mining at Mt. Whittlesey

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The depletion of fossil fuels and the increased demands for modern luxuries like cellphones have led to the exploiting of land such as the mining at Mt. Whittlesey. Mt. Whittlesey is 6th highest peak in Wisconsin reaching up 1,873 feet into the sky. [1] It's nested in the town of Morse, Wisconsin, which is so small that you could get anywhere in town in three minutes if you walked. Mt. Whittlesey is used for recreational hiking, climbing, picnicking, but perhaps in the near future, mining. Until 2010, Mount Whittlesey was a well kept secret to the locals in Mellen and Ashland Wisconsin, however, Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin learned of its mining potential. The possibility of depleted resources ripe for the taking became an alluring idea for the politician and his constitutes. If done correctly, the Mount could lead to several new jobs and minerals available, but if done wrong, it would lead to the destruction of an untouched treasure of Wisconsin. Being merely the 6th largest peak in Wisconsin, and in obscure location, most don't think too much of exploiting it for its resources, but there are consequences to consider.

History of Mt. Whittlesey

Mount Whittlesey, being a landmark, has been around long before the colonists crossed over to the new world. The first visitors and inhabits of the mount were Native American groups living and hunting off the land. Towards the 1800's, the two main groups in Northern Wisconsin were the Ojibwe and the Potawatomi Indians. [2] The relationship between the Indian groups and the mount was a mutually beneficial one, where the Native Americans would eat and live off the land but also put nutrients back into and never take more than was necessary. This reciprocity continued even when the first white settlers came. In fact, one of these colonists was the man the mount was named after, Charles W. Whittlesey. Charles Whittlesey was the man also responsible to naming the range that Mount Whittlesey belongs to, the Penokee range. The Penokee range is nothing more than a slender section of hills that goes as far as mineral lake. From that point on, Mount Whittlesey stayed a secret for the most part, however, the responsibility to the land was decreasing. Today, the site is used for recreational visitation, but not long-term, such as camping on the mount. It is not a nationally preserved area, the state holds responsibility for its upkeep. In 2011, political awareness of Mount Whittlesey's potential came about, and Scott Walker, 45th Governor of Wisconsin, got involved. [3]

Mining and Politics

With fossil fuel availability receding, and unemployment in Wisconsin at approximately 4.6%, politicians are continuously looking for a flag to rally our state around. [4] Politicians like Scott Walker see mining as that flag. Mining has the potential for great political success, it has the possibility of generating resources such as iron and copper but also make an opportunity for new jobs to be created. From that ideal, mining is a logical and smart tactic to use to rally a state in support, however, it's just not that simple.

Governor Scott Walker's Involvement

Scott Walker became the Governor of Wisconsin in 2011 after defeating Tom Barrett in the election. There was a recall for Scott Walker in 2012 due to his unpopularity after attacking collective bargaining for unions. During the recall, Walker began looking into mining in Wisconsin as a way to pull attention away from collective bargaining. Despite the uproar and decreasing detain from a large percent of the state, Walker was reelected and beat out Barrett once again. However, in 2014, the reelection was Governor was held. Walker was up for reelection against Mary Burke, and he won by a 6% vote. [5] With this election, Walker went public with his plan to mine in Wisconsin. This announcement was met with mixed reactions. It was later discovered that Walker and his constituents solicited $700,000 to Wisconsin's Club for Growth from mining companies during the 2011 election. [6] Scott Walker denies any involvement with this, yet shows bias towards mining companies and their desires. In March of 2013, Walker visiting mining corporations in Wisconsin and signed in a bill that reduces the environmental restrictions on iron mining, making mining easier but worse for the environment. This legislation was popular with the Republicans who are more in favor of big business, and quite unpopular with the environmentally sensitive Democrats. Currently, Walker is navigating legal issues in order to gain access to the mount for mining. There is a water quality standard that must be met before proceeding. Evidently, this shows there are concerns that must be addressed when campaigning mining as a save-all solution.

Effects of Mining

As previously stated, mining is currently the focal point of Scott Walker's goals for Wisconsin. As far as political concerns go, it is an intelligent issue to tattle. With mining there's the promise of new resources to build with and new jobs to given out. There is no doubt that mining Mount Whittlesey could bring these benefits to Wisconsin. It's an easier topic to address to the public than one such as dissolving collective bargaining. Mining is a faceless operation, no one is attached to it, unlike collective bargaining, who effects people like teachers. Mellen, Wisconsin is an unknown town with approximately 700 people, easy to dismiss in the grand scheme of things. The key word here being scheme, mining might be a faceless issue, but it is not a victim-less one.

The Good

If mining were to proceed at Mount Whittlesey, there would be immediate benefits. One of the greatest would be the huge iron deposit found in the mount. However, the most beneficial outcome would be the created jobs, the estimated result is 2,800 jobs that would last for approximately 35 years. [7] What isn't factored in here, is the fact that the town in which the mining would occur, is currently home to 700 people, the town cannot sustain 2,800 people coming. Even if all 700 people were of age to work and chose to work the mine, that would still be 2,100 people that would be moving to Mellen, Wisconsin. This could possibly be good, Mellen could be put on the map and become a more populous place. Along with all the new people in the town of Mellen, Wisconsin, there would be an increase in economic growth, more people equals more money, more money in circulation equals more spending and it benefits the community. The huge deposit of iron specifically in Mount Whittlesey could be used to make pig iron which is a part of steel production. The following is a list of minerals also found in this particular mount: almandine, ankerite, chamosite, cholorite, dolomite, garnet, goethite, grunerite, hematite, magnetite, quartz, siderite, and talc. [8] All this effects would be immediate gratification, but also short-lived, whereas the consequences are not.

And the Ugly

Mining, despite its possible prosperity, has closets full of skeletons. A business like mining should not be used as a political pawn due to the fact that there's not a specific group tied to the cause. By using mining as a focal point of hope in order to create more jobs or stimulate the economy, politicians like Scott Walker graze over the ramifications of the business. True, jobs would be created in mining were to occur on the mount of Whittlesey, but the little detail that Walker leaves out when rallying his followers to this cause, is who, who is getting this job. Walker's plans include outsourcing the mining jobs in order to maximize the profit potential he has. Even if as previously stated, the jobs went to people in the area surrounding Mellen, there would still be approximately 2,100 people invading this town and changing the structure of living there. However, the people of Mellen, Wisconsin might simply move away, due to the water issue that would become prominent. If the mining on Mount Whittlesey were to continue as planned, the minerals and residue from the mining tools would get into the water steam and taint all water around Mellen, specifically the Bad River region. The tainted water would make it nearly impossible to live a sustainable life there. This would result in the relocation of a group of people that have been living in this area since their ancestors came to America. Additionally, businesses would be closed down such as a nearby boys' and girls' leadership camp, Camp Eagle Ridge, founded by Kelly and Edward Byrnes. There is also a national state park, Copper Falls, that is approximately 15 minutes away from the mount that would suffer immensely if mining were to occur nearby. Another result neglected to be told by Scott Walker is the effect that mining would have on the wildlife that live on and around Whittlesey. Species that use this land for their habit include but are not excluded to: timber wolves, pine martins, and migrant song birds. With all this information, even a large number of 35 years of stable jobs seem like nothing compared to the long-term consequences to the land, the people, and the water around Mount Whittlesey.

The Future of Mt. Whittlesey

Currently, there is no clear future for Mount Whittlesey, Walker is going through hoops to get this project on its feet, while more people are becoming educated on the ramifications of this mining expedition. For now, the mining is on hold, and the town of Mellen is still a secret gemstone that needs to be protected. If googled, Mount Whittlesey mining, there really isn't much information at all. This is good, and this is bad. It is bad because that means there is scarce information available to the public, especially tied to Scott Walker. Yet, this is also good, but there is no update on the plan to move forward with mining. With the public slowly but surely becoming more knowledgeable about the effects that mining can have, the probability that Mount Whittlesey's natural beauty will be destroyed and used for its resources goes down. Hopefully in the near future, Walker will realize the error of his ways and declare Mount Whittlesey a state protected landmark, which it deserves.

References

  1. Peakery. "Mount Whittlesey", Peakery, n.d., "http://peakery.com/mount-whittlesey-wisconsin/".
  2. "Native American Tribes of Wisconsin", Native Languages, 12/8/15, http://www.native-languages.org/wisconsin.htm.
  3. Wikipedia. "Scott Walker", Wikipedia, Last date of modification: 12/4/15, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker.
  4. U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Unemployment rate - Seasonally Adjusted", Google, Last date of modification: 7/27/15, https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z1ebjpgk2654c1_&met_y=unemployment_rate&idim=state:ST5500000000000:ST2700000000000:ST1700000000000&fdim_y=seasonality:S&hl=en&dl=en.
  5. Wikipedia. "Scott Walker", Wikipedia, Last date of modification: 12/4/15, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker.
  6. Bice, Daniel. "Scott Walker says he was unaware of $700,000 donation from mining company." Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Last modified August 24, 2014. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/walker-says-he-was-unaware-of-700000-donation-from-mining-company-b99336817z1-272433211.html.
  7. Seely, Ron. "Mining in Wisconsin: Promise or peril?" Madison.com. Last modified October 9, 2011. http://host.madison.com/news/local/environment/mining-in-wisconsin-promise-or-peril/article_a41d450d-bcd4-5b10-abd5-06982ac2bf57.html.
  8. Mindat.org. "Berkshire Mine (Pioneer Mine; Hoppenyan exploration), Mount Whittlesey, Gogebic Range, Ashland Co., Wisconsin, USA." Mindat.org. Last modified November 17, 2015. http://www.mindat.org/loc-25700.html.

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