Protecting Brimstone Mountain (
by Steve Timmer
Jul 9, 2013, 4:00 PM

Protecting Brimstone Mountain

It’s not in the jungles of South America, either

The mercenary (and others, some wearing masks) shown above is not lounging in a narcotraficante camp. He’s in the Penokee Hills of northwest Wisconsin, near the south shore of Lake Superior. He and his pals were hired by a company called Gogebic Taconite (GTAC). GTAC is doing some exploring for taconite in the area; there was a dust up with protesters, causing $2,000 in damage, and this was GTAC’s response. “Eco-terrorism,” you see.

Parenthetically, this is a ferrous metals company, kids, not a non-ferrous or sulfide one, but there are sulfides in the rock, too. Especially because the topology of the site tilts rather steeply toward Lake Superior, environmentalists have the same concerns as exist about the Minnesota sulfide projects.

But back to the Brimstone Mountain that PolyMet wants to build near Hoyt Lakes, right next to the new landscape feature that will undoubtedly be known as the Great Sulphur Hole. (The Brimstone Mountain project is just one of the two proposed mines; the other is an underground mine near Ely proposed by a company called Twin Metals.) As noted here earlier:

PolyMet’s sulfide mine [according to its own submissions] would create a permanent waste rock heap of 168,000,000 tons and dump 228,000,000 tons of tailings on top of a tailings basin [for taconite mining] that is already leaking and violating water quality standards.

I’m not sure how tall Brimstone Mountain will be; I wonder if you will be able to ski down it?

Also according to the company, Brimstone Mountain would leach sulfides — the Biblical brimstone — into surface water for at least 200 years.

So it would probably be hard on your skis.

But hey, this is obviously worth protecting. The pro-mining Facebook page We Support Minnesota Mining intimates maybe with the same kind of tactics as employed in Wisconsin: hiring assault-rifle-carrying mercenaries.

barney likes it

 And the person who likes it is interesting. Lakner, Barney Lakner; where have we heard that name before? Oh, yeah! He’s the guy who got three years for terrorizing campers in the BWCAW in 2007. That Barney Lakner:

Lakner and Olson [one of the other perps] were part of a group of six Elyites who shot off guns and fireworks and threatened dozens of campers during a drunken spree that lasted several hours, according to criminal complaints filed in the case.

Two of the victims, 27-year-old Marina Koller and her father Emmerich, 64, both returned to Minnesota from their homes in Illinois to testify at the sentencing.

Marina Koller read from journal entries she made shortly after the incident, describing a harrowing night where the defendants entered their campsite and prompted her and her family to hide in the woods.

“The experience for me is really far from over,” said Koller, who in graphic detail described a series of vulgar threats [rape] made by the men. “I thought I was going to die up there… I wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable in my own skin again. I want the nightmares to go away.”

Barney don’t like him some BWCAW campers, I guess. Buncha enviro tree huggers. In fact, here’s what one Forest Service official said:

Jim Sanders, supervisor of the Superior National Forest, said the incident “borders on hate crimes” and will be “part of the Boundary Waters timeline forever.”

The apparent support for strong-arm tactics by the mining companies is troubling, and some of the quarters it is coming from is darkly ironic.

A post on the Facebook page referred to above, We Support Minnesota Mining, calls the people currently conducting an education campaign about the risks associated with sulfide mining, Mining Truth, “extremists.”


Update: A commenter regrets my inclusion of Jay Olson in the story, saying that he “is trying to put his life back together.” I applaud that and wish him well. The only reference to Mr. Olson was a quotation from the article in the Ely Echo from 2008.

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