August 16, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 192

To mine, ore not to mine?

HURLEY — A vast majority of the people attending a hearing on mining in Hurley on Thursday morning spoke against allowing bulk sampling and the Gogebic Taconite mine in general.

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe
ATTENDEES LISTEN to comments during the morning portion of a public hearing on bulk sampling and a pre-application mining notice from Gogebic Taconite at the Hurley K-12 School Thursday.

More than 70 people attended the morning session of a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources public hearing on bulk sampling and a pre-application notice from G-Tac. The hearing was at the Hurley K-12 School.

The event ran until 8 p.m.

Larry Lynch, a geologist for the WDNR and technical lead for the project, said G-Tac has submitted a bulk sampling plan to remove 4,000 tons of sample rock from the site near Upson.

The company also submitted a pre-application notice that G-Tac will submit a permit application after 12 months.

“It is going to take a couple of years to gather all of the environmental data and put reports and applications together,” Lynch said. “This is a very long process, but our goal has been to keep the public informed.”

Attendees were allowed to speak, limited to three minutes. Written comments were also collected and will be accepted until Sept. 3.

Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin, an environmental group from Madison, spoke about specific concerns with G-Tac’s plan and pre-application notice, citing “sparse information” and the amount of waste left after sample gathering.

“The volume of waste would be enough to cover the entire city of Green Bay in 10 feet,” Wheeler said.

A major concern from many who spoke was understaffing at the DNR becoming “detrimental” to the regulation process of the project.

John Schneider, of Rhinelander, has lived at the Harvest Camp near the proposed mine site. He said he has witnessed damage to the area.

“Small machines have already made a mess up there,” Schneider said. “What about when bigger machines are up there?”

Schneider spoke about how the ecosystem was being affected, and said the “political train” that was leading the push for the mine was “ridiculous” and needed to stop.

Rose Gurnoe, of the Red Cliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa in Bayfield County, spoke about how the project was an “insult on treaty rights and our way of life.”

Gurnoe also spoke about a “glaring omission” from many of the plans and regulations, “sacred sites” in the Penokee Hills.

“There are many sacred sites there,” Gurnoe said. “Our ancestors lived and died there.”

Madison resident Bruce Noble said the bulk sample collection would no different from mining in that area. “If it walks like a mine, talks like a mine, it is a mine,” Noble said. “We need the DNR to guide us safely through this storm.”

Written comments can be submitted to Larry Lynch, DNR, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, WI, 53707 or by email at DNRWAMINING-GOGEBICTACONITE@Wisconsin.gov. Gogebic Taconite’s project materials are also available at the Hurley Public Library at 405 Fifth Avenue North in Hurley and at the Vaughn Public Library at 502 W. Main St., in Ashland.