So Who Are the “Environmentalists” Opposing WI Mining?

Environmentalists are expected to pack a public hearing in Ladysmith today, opposing legislation to repeal a moratorium on mining in Wisconsin. Mining supporters say it can be done safely and will be a boon to the state economy. They point to the closed Flambeau mine as a success story. Opponents claim mining will harm the environment and they too point to Flambeau to make their case. Media Trackers has learned that two prominent opponents have extremist backgrounds. One such opponent is Al Gedicks.

Gedicks is executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and emeritus professor of environmental sociology at UW-La Crosse. He has written several books, including “Resource Rebels and “New Resource Wars.” While Gedicks is treated as a mainstream environmentalist by the media, his past tells a story of radical extremism.  Court records show that Gedicks was convicted for attempting to firebomb the Army ROTC building on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus in 1970:

The defendant, Albert Joseph Gedicks, Jr., plaintiff in error in this proceeding, was charged with attempted arson, contrary to secs. 943.02, 943.05 and 939.32, Stats., and with possession of a fire bomb, contrary to sec. 943.06. Following trial to the court, defendant was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to three years’ probation with the first ninety days to be spent in the Dane county jail under the Huber Act (sec. 56.08).

It’s likely Gedicks will be among those testifying Thursday at the public hearing on the mining moratorium repeal bill. He’s also likely to be joined there by Laura Gauger. Gauger was among those who unsuccessfully sued Rio Tinto over alleged water contamination from the Flambeau mine. As part of that loss Gauger was required to pay part of Rio Tinto’s court costs. Her share was $20,500. She wrote at  last month that: “Fortunately, I was showered with community support and quickly raised the entire amount.” Yet, her website asking for money to pay off those court costs remains active:

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. Unfortunately, however, the ruling was overturned on a technicality. Now the court is ordering the plaintiffs, including me as an individual, to pay the polluter’s court costs. To read all the details, including court documents, please visit the Flambeau Mine Exposed website.


The bill is over $60,000, and my share is $20,500.


This 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.


Don’t let Rio Tinto or any other polluter silence the “little guy” – please make your tax-deductible donation today.


Nothing would please me more than to receive a zillion small donations. That’s what grassroots activism is all about, right?


Thank you for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me during this difficult time.

By Gauger’s own words the “difficult time” has passed; she boasted last month of how the community came to her defense.  Yet she continues to ask for “a zillion small donations.”

The bill’s supporters say reviving  mining in Wisconsin would bring desperately needed economic lifeblood to the northwoods economy. Florence County Economic Development Director Wendy Gehlhoff recently told Media Trackers that even though her county isn’t suitable for a mine, the economic boost it would bring to the region would be vital. She said the tourism industry alone can’t create the jobs that keep people from leaving the area. And she said restarting mining would reinvigorate the freight rail industry up north. She says that would make the region attractive to other industries.

And the Natural Resources Development Association has quantified the potential impact:

300: Jobs created by just a single, typical mine

$81,000 – $88,000: average compensation package, which is similar to workers in neighboring


$27.7 million: taxes and fees to local and state government from mining operations

8 million: tons of ore mined from the successful, clean, relatively small Flambeau mine

85 percent: jobs filled by local residents at the Flambeau mine

3.3 Million: ounces of silver mined from the Flambeau mine

334,000: ounces of gold mined from the Flambeau mine

181,000: tons of commercial copper mined from the Flambeau mine

0: Mines flagged for investigation on the federal government’s “National Priorities List” during

the time the Flambeau mine operated

Senator Tom Tiffany and other supporters of re-starting the mining industry say it could transform the state’s northern economy. And Gehlhoff points out that tourism is vital enough to the region for officials to know that they must protect the natural resources above ground as they allow for the harvesting of those below it.