Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wisconsin Public Radio: Documentary on Gogebic Taconite's proposed Penokee mine touring Wisconsin

View of the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin, where Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) plans to put a huge open pit iron mine.  (File photo © Pete Rasmussen, Moving Water Photography, and courtesy Penokee Hills Education Project. Reprinted with permission.)

NORTHERN WISCONSIN -- On Monday, July 28, John Munson of Wisconsin Public Radio (filling in for Joy Cardin) interviewed two filmmakers from Milwaukee-based 371 Productions concerning their Al Jazeera America Fault Lines documentary Wisconsin's Mining Standoff -- about Gogebic Taconite's (GTAC’s) controversial proposal to dig an open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

Brad Lichtenstein, writer and director of the film, and Devon Cupery, producer, told Munson they wanted to present the facts they researched for the film in order to inform the public -- not only local residents affected directly by the proposed project but people all over Wisconsin.

According to Cupery, they were aware of "passionate feelings on both sides of the issue" and they wanted the documentary to include both sides.

The film takes viewers to Wisconsin's Ashland and Iron Counties, where GTAC (a subsidiary of "Cline Resource and Development" of Florida) has set off a battle over the state’s natural resources by proposing to dig -- in Wisconsin's Penokee Hills -- what could be one North America’s largest open pit mines. The film explores the potential impacts of the mine and how legislation changed the state’s mining laws.

Lichtenstein said the filmmakers did research into GTAC's claims about their record and found them not to be true. In fact, the filmmakers confirmed serious violations of laws by the company's owner, Chris Cline, (in West Virginia and Illinois) and by GTAC President Bill Williams, who has been charged with environmental crimes in Spain.

Munson, noting he was from northern Wisconsin himself, said he was aware of the high unemployment rate in the area -- the need for jobs -- as well as the concerns about the potential environmental impacts and "boom and bust" economic impacts of the proposed mine.

This interview is still available on the Wisconsin Public Radio Web site.

About the film: "Fault Lines" correspondent Josh Rushing travels to Ashland and Iron Counties to report the story.

Viewers meet the players at the heart of the standoff, visiting a century-old, family-owned dairy farm that could be impacted by the mine. We hike deep in the woods in the harshest of winters to spend time with the Chippewa tribes who have set up an education and resistance camp to oppose the mine. The Bad River Chippewa tribe, who have lived in the region for generations, raise concerns that acid mine drainage would contaminate the water, fish and wild rice on which they depend. And we meet Leslie Kolesar, Chairwoman of the Iron County Mining Impact Committee, who tells "Fault Lines" the mine would bring 700 desperately needed jobs to a region with high unemployment.

"Fault Lines" talks to Wisconsin State Senator Bob Jauch, who opposes this mining project and tells the audience how GTAC ignored its critics. "Fault Lines" also interviews Bob Seitz, Director of External Affairs for GTAC, who denies allegations that the company had a hand in writing mining legislation and defends the company’s record of environmental and safety violations.

It’s an unfolding battle in a pristine wilderness where even the tiny Iron County board election attracts money from outsiders like the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. This is a story about money and power versus environmental concerns and a way of life for thousands of local residents. It’s a story ultimately about the state of our democracy.

The 25-minute film is touring the state of Wisconsin this summer in a series of film screenings followed by community discussions and panels. The documentary premiered June 14, 2014, on Al Jazeera America’s award-winning investigative documentary program, "Fault Lines." It addresses a crucial issue for Wisconsinites heading to the polls in November for gubernatorial elections.

Screenings of the film began July 24. Several upcoming screenings in Wisconsin are planned or in the process of being planned. Others will be added as they are finalized. All are open to the public.

The following screenings are scheduled for August:

Wednesday, Aug. 13 -- Madeline Island -- Tom’s Burned Down Café, 9 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 14 -- Mellen -- Mellen Library, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 17 -- Montello -- MORE Healthy Foods Café, 4 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 28 -- Milwaukee -- St. John’s on the Lake, 3:30 p.m.

To obtain more details on screenings or to learn how you can arrange a screening of this film for your community click here.

UPDATE: Bad River Watershed Association recently hosted a showing of 371 Production's Wisconsin Mining Standoff run on Al Jazeera America. After the showing, there was a panel discussion with Tracy Hames, Wisconsin Wetlands Association; Pete Russo, Chair, Ashland County Board; Devon Cupery, producer; Charles Ortman, Ashland County Board; Mike Wiggins Jr, Chairman, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Sen. Bob Jauch (D-25). Allie Raven, member of Bad River Watershed Association and Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, facilitated the discussion. See 8 videoclips of the discussion, posted on YouTube. Click here for Part 1.

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