Testing, inventory, and gathering of just about everything there is in the proposed Penokee Hills iron ore mining site will continue through the summer.
Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) has 20 people doing environmental testing in Ashland and Iron counties. GTAC’s Bob Seitz says they’re walking every square foot of the 4.5 miles that could become the largest open pit iron ore mine in North America.
“We’ve had flyover work done looking for things like eagle nests and those kinds of things, as well as vertebrates, invertebrates, mammals, the whole thing,” said Seitz. “So it’s actually been kind of fun.”
Seitz said it’s all about fact-finding so they can submit an application to Wisconsin for a mining permit.
“We’re kind of moving past the time frame when folks can speculate and we’re getting into where we’re actually going to have the facts laid out to be able to come up with a plan,” said Seitz.
GTAC and Department of Natural Resources biologists are the only people currently in the mine area. Last December, the state Legislature passed a law barring anyone else from that land with a 600 foot off-limits zone.
Bad River Tribal Environmental Director Cyrus Hester said it’s a bad law.
“Science depends on peer review and a lot of minds working on these complex issues,” said Hester. “This is definitely a complex site in an ecological sense in its current function. It’s complex in its geology and hydrogeology … the more minds, the more eyes looking at things and collecting data is ultimately a benefit to the decision-making process.”
Meanwhile, Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk said the off-limits zone has been quiet with no incidents.