UW Prof Tied to Group Promoting Seal Clubbing?

MacIver News Service | March 6, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] An organization called Freedom Ferrous is trying to attract attention to Sauk County’s iron mining potential, while reassuring the public this would lead to thousands of jobs, lower property taxes, more tourism, prostitution and seal clubbing, according to its brochure “American Iron for American Jobs.”

Skulan, Joe.pngThis brochure was available at a display in the Capitol Rotunda this week. Dr. Joseph Skulan, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Geoscience, told the MacIver News Service he took out the permit for the display.

Skulan stands by the group’s stated mission of bringing iron mining to Sauk County.

“We’re just a group interested in iron mining in Sauk County,” he told MNS bluntly.

Sauk County had a thriving iron mining industry in the 19th century. Skulan said the iron ore is of a higher quality than that in northern Wisconsin and lies closer to the surface.

“The only reason it was abandoned [in the 19th century] was they couldn’t keep water out of the shafts,” he said.

That would be no challenge for technology today. Skulan began explaining how mining in Sauk County would be safer for the public and the environment than in northern Wisconsin, but his cell phone then broke up. MNS sent him follow up email and is awaiting a response.

Skulan’s science-based arguments in conversation contrast sharply with the tone of Freedom Ferrous’ brochures.

“Acid mine drainage does not happen in modern mining. And any acid mine drainage that does happen can be controlled with a combination of modern science and legislation. Remember, under Wisconsin law there are no sulfides in iron mines. No sulfides means no acid mine drainage,” the brochure reads.

Last month Freedom Ferrous launched a website and a Facebook page. The group posts comments like, “The Troops need iron for armor. Mining supports the troops,” and “Q. What do America’s foreign terrorist enemies and mining opponents have in common? A. They both hate Freedom and hate America.”

The Facebook page has caused some confusion among mining opponents. Some interpret the page and the group as a tongue-in-cheek anti-mining campaign, while others see it as an attack.

In response to the Q&A post, one individual responded “What a brainless comment. I love America, and want to keep what is left of our democracy. It is the mining proponents who are anti-democratic.”

Ferrous Freedom 1.png

While another individual posted on the page “Tongue in cheek? Good enough for the front page of the Onion!”

Ferrous Freedom 2.png

Despite the appearance of being nothing more than a gag, neither Freedom Ferrous’ web administrator nor Dr. Skulan is letting up, claiming that iron mining in Sauk County would be completely safe.

However, Dr. Skulan testified to the Joint Committee on Finance during last year’s mining debate. He said he was initially of favor of iron mining in northern Wisconsin, but after conducting some research concluded it could not be done in an environmentally safe manner.

The Wisconsin Assembly is expected to take up the mining bill this Thursday. The Senate passed the bill last week.