Model Mine Myth

Roscoe Churchill astutely offers comment on the manicured Flambeau Mine site (Nov 2004).

Roscoe Churchill astutely offers comment on the manicured Flambeau Mine site (Nov 2004).

The Flambeau Mine, owned by Rio Tinto (London, UK), is being held up by the Industry as a “model mine” in efforts to build community support for new mines proposed in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Alaska and who knows where else.

Photographs of prairie grass and hiking trails at the reclaimed Flambeau Mine site appear in various company brochures. But the mine’s manicured surface belies what has happened to the WATER over there.

For sure, the Flambeau Mine/Model Mine myth is being propagated by MiningMinnesota (a mining trade association promoting the PolyMet project in Minnesota’s arrowhead region);  Twin Metals Minnesota (a Canadian/Chilean joint venture company with holdings in northeastern Minnesota);  Lundin Mining (Rio Tinto’s successor to the Eagle project in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula);  the Pebble Partnership (a consortium with eyes on developing Alaska’s Pebble Deposit, upstream of Bristol Bay);  the Wisconsin Mining Association (the mouthpiece for Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) and its Penokee Hills project) and its board member Stephen Donohue (a director at Foth Infrastructure & Environment);  Rio Tinto (the owner of the Flambeau Mine);  and “Friends of [Wisconsin Governor] Scott Walker.”

Concrete examples of false and misleading statements about the Flambeau Mine circulated by the mining industry and its supporters can be accessed by clicking on the below links:

The mining industry’s propagation of the Flambeau Mine/Model Mine myth is difficult to stomach. Click on the following links to access a fully-referenced report that contains, among other things: (1) irrefutable groundwater and surface water pollution data from Flambeau Mining Company/Rio Tinto’s own reports; (2) citations from a damning assessment of surface water pollution at the mine site conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR); and (3) information about a 2012 Clean Water Act case waged against Flambeau Mining Company in federal court:

Comments (March 2014)Appendix A ; Appendix B ; Appendix C ; Appendix D ; Appendix E ; Appendix F ; Appendix G ; Appendix H ; Appendix I ; Appendix J ; Appendix K ; Appendix L ; Appendix M ; Appendix N ; Appendix O ; Appendix P ; Appendix Q ; Appendix R ; Appendix S ; Appendix T ; Appendix U

A direct rebuttal of claims about the Flambeau Mine made by Mining Minnesota and Twin Metals Minnesota was also published in the December 31, 2014 issue of the Reader Weekly (Duluth, MN). Click on the following image to read the story, entitled: “A Mine is a Hole in the Ground Owned by Liars.” Was Mark Twain Right?


Reader Weekly, Issue # 821, December 31, 2014; cover by Bruce Woodman (Duluth, MN);

But there is even more to the story. In April 2015 mining engineer/geologist Jack Parker (Jack Parker and Associates, Baltic, MI) reviewed and offered comment on various claims made by Rio Tinto and others with regard to groundwater contamination at the Flambeau Mine site. He also suggested a plan to investigate the extent and degree of groundwater contamination at the site. Please see below.


To read JP’s comments in their entirety and access several related documents of interest, please click on the below links:

To watch a Youtube video about the myth of the “environmentally responsible” Flambeau Mine, click here:  Laura (Furtman) Gauger interview, June 2009.

To read more about the lies propagated by Kennecott, Rio Tinto and others regarding the environmental performance of the Flambeau Mine, please see the following pages of my website:

To sum it all up:

Some claim that Rio Tinto doesn’t give a hoot about the people of Ladysmith, and that the company’s only reason for  sinking money into ‘reclaiming’ the surface of the Flambeau Mine site was to use it down the line as a calling card for new projects in new neighborhoods. And that indeed appears to be what is happening today. Care to stroll along the hiking trails or participate in a bird or butterfly survey? Never mind the polluted water beneath your feet or how a tributary of the Flambeau River that crosses the mine site has now been added to the EPA’s list of impaired waters!

Catching those buzzards in an outright lie about the environmental performance of the Flambeau Mine could be very powerful, eh?