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home : opinions : letters to the editor
January 17, 2020

10/29/2019 7:30:00 AM
Reader reflects on the history of mining in Oneida County

To the Editor:

I remember attending a hearing in the courthouse back in 1989. The hearing was held in a small room, and there was probably no more than a dozen, or so, people there, including county officials and an industry representative. The hearing was about a mining lease on County Forest lands in the Town of Lynne. The Noranda representative said not to worry because it was rare to actually find anything. This was disingenuous because, we now know, that both Exxon and Kerr-McGee had done work at the site, and had reason to believe that something was there. They could not do exploratory drillings, though, because the Forest was closed to metallic mining.

Members of the public in attendance raised concerns about the leasing plan, but it didn't matter. Few people in the county knew what was happening, including in the Town of Lynne. Many people were outraged when they learned that the county government had leased "their land" to a Canadian mining company. Public opposition was intense, and county government lost the public's trust.

Our county government didn't know what they were doing. All they had to work with was the bizarre policy resolution that opened the forest to metallic mining. The premise of the resolution was that "safe and sensible mining" was assured. This was proven to be untrue as soon as it was tested. The mentality in the courthouse was, "let's just lease the forest, and see what happens, they probably won't find anything anyway." No one bothered to understand the physical nature of our County Forest, so no one understood what conflicts would result if a mineral deposit was discovered.

Any supervisor, in the courthouse, who has been paying close attention for the last 30 years would not have been surprised by the result of the referendum question last November. It was merely a reflection of the 30-year public record of opposition to leasing the County Forest for metallic mining. There are several supervisors on the board that have their agenda and don't care what people think, and there are a few others, like Bob Mott, who think they have a clever, in-between, position. Let's just open the Forest to metallic mining, except for the Lynne site, they say. There just may be some special, unknown place in the County Forest, where a sulfide mine would be a smashing success for everyone, they speculate.

We don't want our elected representatives on the county board to wheel & deal, gamble, and roll the dice, with our water resources on our County Forest, to promote something as destructive as a sulfide mine, in this watery world, that we call our home.

Oneida County made a big mistake back in 1989. Thirty years later, there is a slim majority on the board, seemingly poised to repeat that mistake, albeit with Lynne off of the table. Here are two ways to avoid repeating that mistake.

Oneida County needs to evaluate the physical nature of our County Forest. This means identifying the lakes, streams, and wetlands, and then, evaluating the depth of overburden, or depth to bedrock, and the depth to water table. This will give the county a clear view of the conflicts that a sulfide mine would present on our County Forest. Then, present this information to the owners of the property, and hold public hearings, and please, listen.

Karl A. Fate


Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, December 21, 2019
Article comment by: Craig Strid

When we exploit our natural resources we have to defend and protect its existence. We have to learn by our mistakes in the past and be impartial to preserve the balance of nature. Saying no does not merely apply to human rape. I'm reminded of our logging industry. First the white pine was depleted and floated down our rivers to fullfil a need. Then the focus shifted to hardwoods that the railroads transported to the mills because they could not float.
When I learned that the carpenter that made the first Andirondack chairs in 1903 he favored to make them out of chestnut but the species was rare now on the Eastcoast so he had to resort to pine and paint. To now find Chestnut beams in an old barn is a find to cherish.
Try to find a grove of Oak trees in Northern Wisconsin to hunt squirrels. Their Far and in between.
We have the responsibility to be guardians of the land.
Let's not wait until it's gone to appreciate it. We have the lives of our wildlife in our hands. Closed fists can destroy their existence.
Food for thought

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