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Mining impact committee discusses reclamation plans

 


HURLEY — Representatives from the Gogebic Taconite company spoke to the Iron County Mining Impact Committee Monday about possible reclamation at the proposed mine near Upson.

GTAC president Bill Williams said studies on the proposed mine site would help shape ideas as to what the site could become after the mining process is completed.

Williams said former mining areas in Minnesota have been turned into all-terrain vehicle parks after mine sites closed.

“Another possible idea that has been mentioned is a shooting range,” Williams said. “Ideas are something that we can embrace and work with.”

Committee member Robert Walesewicz mentioned private landowners near the proposed mine site should also be involved the process of choosing what will happen after the mine is closed.

“We would be open to meeting with landowners to see what ideas and concepts they have,” Williams said. “Once the studies come in, then we can see what’s open or not open. That will help shape the final decision.”

Studies over the next couple of months will include drilling core samples to determine minerals.

A controversial issue is the potential of producing sulfide minerals, which create a toxic run-off if exposed to water.

According to Tim Myers, GTAC engineer, a sample will have to be drilled, then taken to labs for testing before the company will know for sure if the site bears sulfide minerals.

“It takes many months,” Myers said. “Maybe we will know by the end of the year. Maybe.”

Cores will be collected in two phases, including using existing roadways near the site, including logging roads, so that GTAC doesn’t disturb the archeology of the site.

The second collection will take place after the area is surveyed to avoid potential damages to the archeology of the site. GTAC will then apply for the second collection permit after the survey is completed.

Committee chair Leslie Kolesar asked Williams about the possibility of using tailings from the site for projects like landscaping or road construction.

Williams said that in Mesabi, Minn ., tailings were used for projects, but then the issue of using tainted rocks came into play because of the lack of regulations at that time.

According to Williams, a ratio of 3.4 tons of ore to one ton of product would leave 2.4 tons of tailings that could be used.

“Once we see what the characterization is, then that will tell us if we can use the product or not,” Williams said.

The reclamation plan will start to take form after core samples have been collected. Everything, currently, is based on concepts, according to Williams.

“Once we find out more, everything will change,” Williams said. “We will submit the reclamation plan with the mining application and go from there.”