Proposed Crandon Mine in Northeast Wisconsin, USA


In 1976 Exxon Coal and Minerals Company announced the discovery of a zinc-copper ore body located in northeastern Wisconsin near the city of Crandon. During the early 1980's, Exxon submitted the necessary permit applications and environmental studies necessary to characterize the environment surrounding the project site. A Final Environmental Impact Statement was published in November 1986 and in December Exxon withdrew their application, citing depressed minerals prices, and a formal permitting decision and evaluation was never determined [1].

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Basic Data
NameProposed Crandon Mine in Northeast Wisconsin, USA
CountryUnited States of America
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsNicolet Minerals Company (NMC) proposed to develop the project as an underground mine and remove 55 million tons of ore from the sulfide mineral deposit, which is approximately 4,900 feet long, 2,200 feet deep, and 100 feet wide. About 550 acres of surface area in Forest County would be disturbed during development. The expected project life was 34 years [1].

Ore was expected to be mined at a rate of 5,500 tons per day and the expected ore production would result in about 45 million tons of tailings and waste rock that would require disposal. About 40% of the tailings would be disposed of in a tailings management area (TMA) and 60% would be used as backfill for the underground mine. The average tailings depth in the TMA was expected to be about 90 feet [1]. Not only this, but it would cover 355 acres and be the largest toxic waste dump in Wisconsin history [2].

Over about 28 years, the mine project would pump out up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute, which would be over one million gallons a day [2], thus depleting the groundwater.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population500-10,000
Start Date06/01/1975
End Date28/10/2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesNicolet Minerals Company (NMC) from United States of America - Company proposing to build the mine
Rio Algom Ltd from United States of America - Purchased the mine
BHP Billiton (BHP) from Australia
Relevant government actorsU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, Sokaogon Mole Lake Chippewa Community, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAmerican Rivers, Federation of Fly Fishers, Wisconsin State Council of Trout Unlimited, Great Lakes Intertribal Council, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, Midwest Treaty Network
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Soil contamination, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Violations of human rights, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Local tribes as well as environmentalists, sports fishermen, rural people, and others from the Town of Nashville came together to form an unprecedented alliance during a time when these groups did not associate with one another or cooperate with each other. They came together to fight the Crandon mine project and protect their natural resources, especially the Wolf River. Intense opposition led to a moratorium on mining projects in Wisconsin and the tribes were able to buy Nicolet Minerals Company, resulting in the cancellation of the mining proposal. This case signaled to the rest of the world that Wisconsin is not a "mine-friendly" location and no mining companies have since tried to locate there.
Sources and Materials

Nicolet Minerals Company v Town of Nashville 2002
[click to view]

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Mining Fact Sheet: "Addressing Public Concerns with Wisconsin's Laws Governing Metallic Mining"
[click to view]

Water Resources Development Act of 1986
[click to view]


Proposed Crandon Mine Information [1]
[click to view]

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council: What You Should Know About Exxon’s Proposed Crandon/Mole Lake Mine [2]
[click to view]

International Indian Treaty Council: Crandon mine victory in Wisconsin won by a historic alliance [3]
[click to view]

The Crandon Mine Saga by Douglas Buege [4]
[click to view]

Defending a Common Home: Native/non-Native Alliances against Mining Corporations in Wisconsin- AL GEDICKS AND ZOLTÁN GROSSMAN [5]
[click to view]


Wisconsin Stewardship Network: Mining information and links
[click to view]

EarthWINS designs websites for nonprofit organizations who work for peace, justice, human rights, senior citizens, differently-abled, women's rights, environment, renewable energy, fair labor practices, Native American Rights, Indigenous people's rights, reform of laws regulating corporations, and socially responsible, green business practices.
[click to view]

Crandon Mine Reports from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections library
[click to view]

Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
[click to view]

Forest County Potawatomi Community
[click to view]

Sokaogon Chippewa Community
[click to view]

Crandon Mine Has New Owner- University of Wisconsin Madison student newspaper
[click to view]

What does the Crandon Mine Story Mean Today- WXPR news
[click to view]

Cyanide Concerns for Crandon Mine- University of Wisconsin Madison student newspaper
[click to view]

Proposed Zinc and Copper Mine- McDonald Morrissey conducted review of groundwater modeling completed by Crandon Mining Company
[click to view]

Media Links

Crandon Mine and the Wolf River
[click to view]

Al Gedicks describes the Crandon mine opposition and environmental justice victory
[click to view]

Branch of Wolf River near proposed Crandon mine site
[click to view]

Map of proposed mining area
[click to view]

Image of a similar mine to what was being proposed in the Town of Nashville
[click to view]

Other Documents

Unlikely Alliance A lecture given about alliances in Wisconsin, the issues faced, and the factors leading to the alliances
[click to view]

Victory picture Tribes celebrating their victory over the mine proposal after they bought NMC and took over the Information Center with a huge "SOLD" sign on the building.
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBernadette Grafton and Paul Mohai, [email protected] and [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update07/05/2015