Some At Hearing Would Deny Permit For GTAC, Even If It Means Defying Law


Several people at a public hearing in Hurley yesterday asked the Department of Natural Resources to deny Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) permission to begin bulk sampling.

They say they would support a permit denial even if it means defying the new mining law passed earlier this year.

Of the nearly 100 people who testified at the 10-hour hearing, only nine spoke in favor of letting GTAC sample 4,000 tons of rock to find out what’s in the deposit. An Ironwood, Mich. resident was one of them.

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“The pro-mining side says this, the anti-mining side says that,” he said. “How do they know? How do any one of these sides know without going ahead in the process.”

But Bruce Noble of Madison says digging and using explosives in bulk sampling should have the same regulations as full-scale mining, including an environmental impact statement.

“If it walks like a mine, if it talks like a mine, it is a mine,” said Noble.

But there was a common theme among many speakers who oppose the mine. They asked the Department of Natural Resources staff to ignore the new law, which they say doesn’t protect the environment or the people. Devon “Young Bear” Soulier of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe says defying the law is the right thing to do.

“You are the DNR, and if you do have care in you, please care enough to realize that you don’t want your state to die,” said Soulier. “You don’t want your people to die, you don’t want you wildlife to die. Miigwech.”

DNR Mining and Waste Management Director Ann Coakley says they will listen to comments and follow the law. There’s no guarantee GTAC will get permission to bulk sample.

“I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion right now,” she says. “We need more information. We will take the comments that we receive from this hearing seriously, and we’ll see.”

Public comment will be taken through September 3. After that, it will probably be another two months before a decision is made.