DNR Gives GTAC Go-Ahead For 15 More Exploratory Holes

State Officials

A capped exploratory drill site at the proposed iron ore mine site
A capped exploratory drill site at the proposed iron ore mine site in northern Wisconsin.  Tegan Wendland / WisconsinWatch.org

Officials withe the state Department of Natural Resources have given mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) the go-ahead to drill another 15 exploratory holes in Iron and Ashland counties. That will mean an off-limits zone and a private security force.

The drilling could begin as early as late next week. GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz said the bore holes will give them more information for this proposed 4.5-mile-long open pit iron ore mine.

“We’re expanding the number of holes that we’re drilling to give us a better read of everything that’s in the formation,” Seitz said.

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Seitz said he expects that the company will drill all 15 holes by summer at a dozen different sites. Seven sites will be in Iron County and five in Ashland County.

DNR mining director Ann Coakley said winter drilling will have less impact on wetlands, since everything is frozen.

“I do expect some of the borings will be done in the summer — I don’t think they’ll get to all of those in the winter,” Coakley said. “So, I think they’re going to save the ones on the ridge for this summer.”

GTAC drilled eight holes last summer. The first hole drew the ire of a group of masked protesters who descended on the site, yelling obscenities at the workers. GTAC then brought in an out-of-state security firm called Bulletproof, which arrived wearing desert camouflage.

Seitz said they’ll provide private security to the drilling areas again.

Seitz: “We’ll be providing for security and working to make sure we have a safe worksite for our employees and the public.”
WPR: “Will it be Bulletproof again?”
Seitz: “We’ve got several options for security.”

The state Legislature passed an off-limits zone law late last year that would not allow people within 600 feet of roads being used to get to the drill site.