GTAC Challenges DNR Over Questions Agency Asked About Proposed Mine

Company Spokesman: 'We Are Not Being Antagonistic'

Gogebic Taconite has proposed constructing a large open-pit iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills, pictured above. Photo: Adam Schmidt (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Gogebic Taconite, the company exploring the Penokee Hills for a possible open pit iron ore mine, is pushing back against some requests made by the state Department of Natural Resources.

A six-page letter from Gogebic Taconite chief engineer Tim Myers said the DNR isn’t authorized to ask many of the questions it posed in a letter to the company last month. GTAC spokesperson Bob Seitz said the company response is a way to keep the DNR within bounds as they move ahead with rock sampling paperwork.

“The Wisconsin DNR is well-known as a regulatory agency that sets very high standards and asks for a great deal,” said Seitz. “And so, you can call it pushback, but it’s just kind of outlining what the process is. As long as we all understand what the process is, then I think everyone’s going to get along well.”

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Seitz said this exchange doesn’t mean they’ll be butting heads for the rest of the regulatory process.

“We are not being antagonistic. We are spending tens of thousands of dollars to satisfy curiosity in some cases, rather than to satisfy any environmental need or requirement. Even in this case, we’re answering the questions,” he said.

DNR mining director Ann Coakley said the company didn’t answer all their questions, including the presence of sulfide and asbestosform minerals. She said the DNR requests are fair.

“I definitely do not feel like my permitting team has been antagonistic regarding metallic mining in recent years,” said Coakley. “I think we’ve been helpful and absolutely willing to listen and provide advice and work through things together.”

Even so, Coakley said they won’t push the point or even reply to GTAC’s letter.

“My guess is with a very complex, controversial project there’s going to be bumps in the road,” Coakley said.

Before they can go ahead with sampling 2,400 tons of rock in Iron and Ashland County, GTAC officials must get a storm water permit and a waiver for an air emissions permit.