Bad River Watershed Association

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Home LEARN Mining The Potential for Iron Mining in the Bad River Watershed

The Potential for Iron Mining in the Bad River Watershed


A proposal is in development to create an open pit iron mine between Upson and Mellen in the coming years.  As this mining proposal develops, we are following closely to gauge how a project like this will affect our watershed community. Like many of you, we are interested in the potential economic benefits this may bring.  And also like many of you, we are greatly concerned about how this could affect our groundwater, streams, fish, wildlife, forests, and many other resources we have come to rely on.  There is no doubt that this potential development will bring a big change to our watershed, and there are many unanswered questions as to what these changes will look like and how they will affect all of us and our water resources.

As we would with any other local issue, the BRWA is working to provide local people with facts and important information to consider as we all deliberate and form our opinions about this issue. Additionally, as we would with any other local issue, we are working to ensure that local people have a voice in what happens to their watershed.  We provide some information here to educate citizens on the watershed and the impacts a project of this scale could have on our local resources.

Michele Wheeler, former BRWA Executive Director, shares some words to address community concerns about the potential mine in the Penokees.


In the face of a potential mine in the Bad River Watershed, our work has also increased by doing:

  • More water quality monitoring - Monitoring sites have been established in potentially impacted streams to gather baseline (“before”) data on water temperature and macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects), which are important indicators of a stream’s health.  This is important for two reasons:  We need a clear picture of the condition of the streams before any mine impacts would occur.  Secondly, scientists can better predict what changes could be from the mine if they have more data.
  • More coordination with partners – Our community needs to better understand how the watershed would change with a potential mine, and we need to do it quickly. This is a large effort. BRWA can’t do it alone. We have expanded our collaborative role with groups such as Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, The League of Conservation Voters, and many others.  We’re also working with towns, counties and other agencies.
  • More information to local people –With all that is at stake in this issue, the best way to move forward is as an informed community, engaged in finding solutions to preserve watershed health through socially and economically beneficial approaches. BRWA excels in communicating complex scientific information in an understandable format to citizens and decision-makers. We have continued and will continue to provide clear and accessible information to the public through our website, our newsletter, at meetings and at your request.

Over the past decade, we have learned that working in the largest watershed in the Lake Superior basin comes with many challenges - environmental and economic. We know that people here are both resourceful and determined when it comes to taking care of the place we call home. And although we have many differences, we all share a connection with our home watershed. The BRWA works to strengthen that connection for all of us.


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BRWAs Priorities Poll

Please rank the questions below based on how you believe BRWA should prioritize emerging water quality issues in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Establish baseline water quality conditions
Outreach and education
Restore problem erosional areas
Work with local authorities to address water quality issues
Protective waterway designations
» Go to poll »
15 Votes left
Threats To Water Poll

Please rank the questions below based on what you believe is the greater threat to water quality in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Large-scale agriculture
Failing septic/waste treatment systems
Stream sedimentation, washouts and erosion
Forest management practices
» Go to poll »
15 Votes left

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