HURLEY - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that Gogebic Taconite has closed public land surrounding roads at the proposed iron mine site near Upson, Wis.
The closure involves a 600-foot strip of land on each side of private roads running through the site.
G-Tac spokesman Bob Seitz, said, "It's kind of a relief for our folks, to create a safe work site. It's hard enough being in 17 degrees below zero weather, and working with dangerous equipment. It's nice not having to worry about criminal activity, too."
Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in December allowing G-Tac to close restricted zones from public use.
Roads on the site were already in existence, according to Seitz, with only a small portion of road being put in during bulk sampling.
"The purpose of that is to avoid the wetter areas of existing roads," Seitz said. "The vast majority of the roads are existing logging roads or existing railroad right-aways from mines that existed a century ago."
Currently, the company is beginning the process of drilling for core samples. The process should start "very soon," Seitz said. As for how long G-Tac will drill, it all depends on Mother Nature.
"We were there for three to four weeks for eight holes during the summer," Seitz said. "Weather can be a challenge, but we figure we'll be there for four to five weeks."
On Thursday, the company will attend a public hearing through the Iron County Comprehensive Planning/Land and Zoning Committee regarding a conditional use permit for the company to begin bulk sampling. It is at 5:30 p.m. in the main board room at the Iron County Courthouse at Hurley.
"We feel pretty good," Seitz said. "Committee members have taken active roles with this, and they have been out to there to see what we would do. I think that will help. As people go up there, and see what things are happening, it shows that what we are asking is very reasonable."
At the state level, G-Tac was told by the WDNR is is required to submit applications for a stormwater permit, air exempt permit and a final permit for cutting timber on or near the site.
If all three permit applications are accepted by the DNR, and the conditional use permit is granted at the county level, the company can begin bulk sampling.
According to Seitz, the DNR has requested more work on the stormwater permit.
"We'll be meeting with the DNR later this week, and it will be good to have face-to-face discussions to move things along," Seitz said. "We keep moving forward."