“Back Forty” Mine Holds up To Gedicks’ and Gauger’s Criticism


As debate heats up over a proposal to repeal Wisconsin’s mining moratorium, Media Trackers recently looked at the backgrounds of environmentalist figures Al Gedicks and Laura Gauger. Gedicks and Gauger are high profile figures in the opposition to repealing the moratorium.

In a previous article by Media Trackers, Gedicks was shown to have exhibited radical behavior in the past. In 1970 Gendicks was was charged for carrying a firebomb and attempted arson of the the Army ROTC building on the University of Wisconsin Madison campus. Gedicks and Gauger are also involved in the opposition to Aquila’s proposed “Back 40” mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The battle over the Back 40 mine has been a hotly contested one in Northeast Wisconsin. Several County board’s have gone on record opposing the mine.  Much of that opposition comes from claims that the mine could impact water quality as far south as Outagamie County in Wisconsin, a contention Aqualia denies.

And Gedicks is a driving force behind the effort to paint the mine as dangerous to Wisconsin rivers. On the Sierra Club website, whose slogan is “Stand up, protect our planet from Trump,” Gedicks is listed in a program as a presenter, and also wrote an article as a guest blogger. In his blog post he expressed his main concern that the Menominee Indian tribe is worried that the location of the mine is close to a river that has significance for them. He wrote:

The proposed mine has special significance for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin because it is their original tribal homeland. The Menominee reservation is 60 miles southwest of the proposed mine but the tribe’s sacred place of origin is at the mouth of the Menominee River. The tribe fears that sulfide wastes from the proposed mine threatens pollution of the Menominee River and the spawning grounds for one of the largest populations of lake sturgeon in the Lake Michigan basin.


Gedicks and others use the closed Flambeau at Ladysmith as proof sulfide mining is dangerous to the envrionment. But Ladysmith City Manager Al Christianson argues just the opposite . Media Trackers, in a past article, interviewed Christianson who spoke of the mine’s economic boost to the town. And he told critics of the mine, “Come and visit Ladysmith and ask about all the issues that people suggest, they’ll say what are you talking about. Why wouldn’t we who reside here, and have resided here for a long time, be aware of those things?”

Laura Gauger also condemned sulfide mining, and paid the price as she unsuccessfully sued Rio Tinto, a global mining company, over alleged water contamination from the Flambeau mine, and had to pay part of Rio Tinto’s court costs which totaled $20,500. Gauger runs the “Flambeau Mine Exposed” website, despite her court loss. And while Gauger claims the community chipped in to help pay her legal fees, her fundraising website to pay those fees remains active. 

Despite the opposition Aquila reported that it has already acquired three of the four permits by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, including a nonferrous metallic mineral mining permit, air use permit to install, pollutant discharge & elimination system permit (NPDES), and also conducted a  comprehensive environmental baseline study that meets Michigans’ Part 632 Permit to Mine. It has also reported that it has completed:

  • 18 glacial overburden groundwater monitor wells, nine bedrock monitor wells, and nine piezometers have been installed over a six-square-mile area around the project
  • Surface water quality monitoring stations have been established on several rivers, streams and lakes near the project area
  • Monitor wells and surface water stations have been sampled on a quarterly basis
  • An additional 11 staff gauges have been installed over 20 square miles
  • Complete meteorological and air quality monitoring station erected Fall 2007 with continuous on-site data collection
  • Biological studies (aquatics, wildlife and flora) completed
  • Cultural studies completed
  • Visual and noise baseline studies completed


Aquila has also stressed that:

In addition to the environmental baseline study, Aquila Resources has acted in cooperation with the local township on a drinking water survey. At the request of Lake Township a third party environmental consulting firm, Foth Infrastructure and Environment of Green Bay, was contracted to design and implement a water quality study of residential water wells.


Along with steps to ensure environmental protection, A socio-economic study by University of Minnesota Duluth found that the mine would have great impacts on the state’s economy and offer more than 250 permanent jobs. It reported:

In a typical year of operations, federal taxes from non-ferrous mining activity are estimated to total about $9 million, and state and local taxes are estimated to be approximately $11.6 million. In total, in a typical year, nonferrous mining is estimated to pay more than $20 million in taxes to federal and state and local government.

It continued: For a typical year (after the Pre-production phase), the model also estimated that for every job created as a result of non-ferrous mining operations, 0.95 jobs are likely to be created in other sectors of the four counties’ economy. Mining operations in the region are predicted to add almost 260 new jobs to the region and increase output by nearly $160 million annually.


While the mine’s location would be situated on Wisconsin/Michigan border, several southern counties and communities have reacted to the prospect of the mine. A USA Today article reported that the Door County board,  and Marinette County board passed resolutions opposing the mine earlier this summer. Brown County’s board also voted against the mine  voted 21-0 with 2 abstaining to pass the resolution. Outagamie County has also made a move to create a resolution opposing the mine, which Aquila’s director of social responsibility and engagement, Chantae Lessard, responded in a statement to in a statement to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin:

“Aquila Resources is working with local leaders to make clear that communities don’t need to choose between having a strong economy and a clean environment — with modern technology and good practices we can have both.”

With the economic benefits and environmental protections clearly laid out by Aquila, it seems unlikely that legislators and community boards could come up with a different way that would bring as much benefit and economic growth that Aquila would provide.