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Iron Co. Board to decide on legal action against mining opposition campers

HURLEY, WI (WTAQ) - The Iron County Board will decide Tuesday night whether to pursue charges against mining opponents camping at a county forest well beyond its two-week permit period in May.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Hurley.

Paul DeMain of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indian tribe says they won’t leave the encampment, even if they’re served with an eviction notice. He tells Wisconsin Public Radio they’ll remain at the site until the tribal leadership tells them to, “stand down.”

And that, says DeMain, could be any time, or years from now.

The camp consists of about 30 tents, a mile from where Gogebic Taconite has done exploratory drilling for its proposed iron ore mine.

State Senate Republican Tom Tiffany – one of the main sponsors of the bill which made it easier to pursue the new mine – says the camp is illegal. And he says it would hurt local tourism if visitors have to deal with, “a squatters’ village.”

Iron County’s chief prosecutor is expected to give the County Board its options – and he says the Indian treaty rights make the matter complicated.

A week ago, an Iron County committee recommended civil or criminal charges against the camp.

State Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said it’s time for all sides to start talking, and avoid the threats, court action, and claims of, “harboring eco-terrorists.”