DNR Approves GTAC Mine Exploration License

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The Department of Natural Resources has approved an exploration license that will let mining company Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) drill test holes at a proposed mine site in northern Wisconsin.

Governor Walker and Republican legislators weakened mining regulations earlier this year, and now GTAC wants to move ahead with drilling exploratory holes at a potential iron ore mine site in Ashland and Iron Counties. The DNR has just issued a license allowing the firm to drill eight holes hundreds of feet into the ground. DNR mining regulator Ann Coakley says the environment won’t be harmed, partly because of the way GTAC will have to manage water.

“They will use water for their drilling and they will recycle that water, and when they’re done using the water for drilling, they will actually take that water to wastewater treatment plant. We don’t expect any groundwater impact.”

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GTAC originally wanted to drill 13 holes, but Coakley says DNR staff raised concerns about five of them due to the potential impact on wetlands and storm water. A critic of the proposed mine, Kim Wright of Midwest Environmental Advocates, says she just got back from walking the mine site. She worries that the drilling will have a negative impact on an ecologically complex area.

“These are very powerful drills going into really heavy rock. There are chemicals used, [and] there are wetlands everywhere.”

Wright says the DNR needed more time than the ten days mandated by state law to review the application. The DNR says it isn’t sure when the test drilling will begin, but the company has to give the state a day’s notice.

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