A conservative media group cites a report  claiming the mineral grunerite containing asbestos-like fibers alleged to have been found in the Penokee Range isn't, in fact, grunerite.
The asbestos-like fibers were first acknowledged by the state Department of Natural Resources in August. They reported grunerite minerals, which might carry the fibers, exist in the mining area.
In October, Northland College geologist Tom Fitz found heavy concentrations of asbestos-like fibers in one mining exploration site.
Four days later, Bad River Chippewa Chairman Mike Wiggins accused mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) of knowing about the fibers but covering it up. Two days after that, geologists from GTAC, the DNR, and Bad River toured the site together, and agreed more study was needed.
In December, GTAC officials told the DNR that asbestiform fibers aren't an issue at this stage, and last week criticized the DNR for even bringing it up in a mining report.
Now, the conservative watchdog group Media Trackers  said University of Minnesota-Duluth laboratory manager Bryan Bandhi tested the samples and found they weren't grunerite. Media Trackers then took a shot at Fitz for “making a name for himself.”
Fitz said he stands by his findings.
“I am sure that this is asbestiform grunerite, so I'm not backing down on anything that we've said so far,” he said. “It may be more complicated than what we had thought.”
He said the dispute is whether it's grunerite or not, not whether asbestos-like fibers exist. Fitz also insists he isn't politically motivated.
“I am a teacher and a scientist and I want to understand these rocks, and I want to help people understand these rocks,” he said. “I don't have an agenda besides that.”
Media Trackers spokesman Brian Sikma said they are a political operation.
“We are unabashedly conservative in our position, but we also make sure we hold everyone accountable and we're not ashamed of that,” Sikma said.
As for University of Minnesota-Duluth scientist Bandhi, he said he leaves all comment on the minerals to Fitz. Bandhi said after this, he's gun-shy.