Natural Resources Board Will Tour Reclaimed Flambeau Mine On Tuesday

DNR Official Says Agency Is Not Drawing Parallels Between Flambeau Mine, Proposed GTAC Operation

The Flambeau mine in Ladysmith, shown in a photo taken in 1997. Photo: Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-ND).

The Natural Resources Board is scheduled to tour a former copper and zinc mine near Ladysmith on Tuesday afternoon, a visit that will occur in the midst of debate over a proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills.

The DNR Board is meeting this week in Hayward, and as usual has added visits to sites relatively nearby. On Tuesday, after watching a crossbow demonstration, board members will tour the Reclaimed Flambeau Mine Nature Trails site.

DNR waste management director Ann Coakley acknowledges the stop comes during a time when mining in the region has become a major point of debate. She said, however, that the DNR is not trying to link the Flambeau mine reclamation to GTAC’s proposal.

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“The Ladysmith Flambeau mine is the only mine that’s ever been permitted, constructed, operated and reclaimed under the state’s existing regulatory framework. The proposed Gogebic Taconite mine would be under a different regulatory framework, so I don’t draw the parallel,” said Coakley.

Coakley said the board will be briefed on steps the mining company has been taking over the last few years to try to control copper runoff from the Ladysmith site. She said Flambeau Mining has taken appropriate measures.

Mining opponent Pete Rasmussen of the Penokee Hills Education Project said he hopes the board will keep in mind that the Ladysmith mine was much smaller than what GTAC is proposing.

“It’s abundantly clear that the Penokee mine would be the largest industrial project in the history of this state, and the Flambeau mine was a football field-sized hole in the ground, comparatively,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen also said iron ore processing, which poses a potential risk for local water and air, would take place on-site if the GTAC mine is built. The Flambeau mine, on the other hand, didn’t process its materials on-site.

After touring the Flambeau mine site, the DNR Board will have dinner with Native American tribal leaders. Many of Wisconsin’s tribes have expressed concern over the proposed Penokee Hills mine.