Laura Gauger paddling the Flambeau River. (Photo by Steve Garske of Marenisco, Mich., Oct 2011. Reprinted with permission.)
DULUTH, Minn. -- I stood up for clean water. I used my voice as a citizen. And now I am being punished by having to personally pay a substantial portion of a multinational mining company’s court costs.
That’s right. I am a citizen plaintiff in a Clean Water Act case against Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining corporations in the world. The case involved illegal discharges of pollutants into a stream at the company’s Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, Wisconsin. For photos and official court documents, click HERE.
My co-plaintiffs and I won the case in U.S. District Court and exposed Rio Tinto’s highly touted "model mine" for what it is -- just one more example of how metallic sulfide mines always pollute. The ruling, however, was overturned on appeal, and now the court is ordering the plaintiffs, including me as an individual, to pay the polluter’s court costs. The bill is over $60,000, and my share is $20,500.
I am just a few donations short of paying off my share of these court costs awarded to Rio Tinto in the Flambeau Mine Clean Water Act case! Right now I am about $1500 short of my goal -- almost there! If you have not yet contributed, will you help put me over the top with a tax-deductible donation to my fundraiser?
I am completely OVERWHELMED by this huge flood of generosity. Truly, we have scored a victory on TWO different fronts in this lawsuit:
The first is a VICTORY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. The court case provided a means for exposing, under oath and with credibility, the serious water pollution problems at the Flambeau Mine site. So the next time the Flambeau Mine is held up by supporters of PolyMet or Twin Metals (Minnesota), Lundin (Michigan), GTac (Wisconsin), the Pebble Partnership (Alaska) or anyone else as an example of how mining can be done "without polluting local waters," you will have solid ammunition to use in the defense of your clean water.
The second is a VICTORY FOR THE "LITTLE GUY." Rallying the way you did to help me sends the following message, loud and clear, to Rio Tinto and other corporate polluters:
Enough! You cannot ride roughshod over citizens who are simply trying to protect public waters, and you cannot keep us down. We "little guys" watch out for each other, we have each other’s backs, and we are tenacious. You may as well give up on your latest mining proposals because we WILL ultimately prevail in this battle to protect the water and the "little ones" whose voices need to be heard.
What happened to me is an assault to all citizen activists. If polluters can get away with bullying even one person for trying to enforce the Clean Water Act, it will make it more difficult for all of us to protect our drinking water, lakes and streams. Not only will it have a chilling effect on the ability and willingness of ordinary citizens to speak up, but on the lawyers we need to help us.
To all those who have already contributed to my fundraiser, THANK YOU! And if anyone else would care to make a donation to help erase the last $1500 of my debt, please click HERE.
With respect and thanks,
*Laura Gauger is a member of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council (WRPC) and the Center of Biological Diversity (her co-plaintiffs in the Flambeau Mine lawsuit). Ms. Gauger is formerly a resident of Spooner, Wis., and currently resides in Duluth, Minn.
For background on the Flambeau Mine Clean Water Act case, see our Jan. 25, 2011, article, "Updated: Lawsuit filed against Kennecott subsidiary for water pollution at Flambeau Mine site" and our July 25, 2012, article, "Court: Flambeau Mining Company violated Clean Water Act."