Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), the company behind the proposed iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills, says it won’t take rock samples from an area where asbestos-like fibers were found.
GTAC took nearly four months to pull together information the Department of Natural Resources wanted for a plan to sample tons of rock in Iron and Ashland counties. The revised plan scales back the number of sampling sites from five to three, bypassing the site where asbestos-form fibers were found by the DNR and a Northland College geoscientist.
The fibers are in grunerite deposits, but in a letter last week to the DNR, GTAC continues to deny its existence, saying: “Our position remains that asbestosform material is unlikely to be present in the reserve.”
DNR Waste Management Director Ann Coakley says there is no doubt asbestos-like fibers exist, and that GTAC needs to address the problem in its bulk sampling plan.
“They maintain there are not asbestosform minerals in the area,” says Coakley. “We know that there are because we ourselves collected a sample and have the results back. I’ve been getting a lot of questions on that.”
Coakley says the questions are how much asbestosform rock is in the deposit, and how to prevent it from contaminating the air and water.
Other changes in GTAC’s sampling plan include reducing the amount of rock from 4,000 tons to 2,400 tons, and having a screening process for both sulfide and grunerite. The plan doesn’t include blasting rock; GTAC will use existing rock from exploration done by U.S. Steel in 1960.