Impact committee eyes reclamation of G-Tac mine site
HURLEY - The Iron County Mining Impact Committee discussed possible reclamation efforts at its meeting on Wednesday that would follow the mine being proposed by Gogebic Taconite near Upson, Wis.
Joe Vairus, of the Iron County Forestry and Parks Department, addressed the committee with suggestions on how the mine's stockpile land could be used following completion of G-Tac's work and eventual withdrawal from the area.
"I've heard ideas everywhere from putting a casino in there to having elk habitat," Vairus said. "There's a lot of things we could do with the area."
Other suggestions Vairus mentioned hearing included a ski hill, ATV park, a high-powered shooting range or reforesting the stockpiles.
"The little bit I know about mining areas and what I see growing on un-reclaimed piles in different places, you tend to get patchy trees and trees that don't necessarily require a lot of nutrients," he said.
The types of trees Vairus mentioned growing in such areas were white birch, spruce, balsam, red pine and possibly aspen.
Vairus said reforesting the land would depend on the types of nutrients found in the stockpiles.
Committee members also asked G-Tac President Bill Williams about how much topsoil would cover the stockpiles.
He said, depending on the type of rock in the waste piles, there were different requirements that would need to be established to insure topsoil will grow and vegetation will take roots.
"Where the rock will be placed will be part of a design that will be established with environmental consultants as we put together a plan (and) of course the input coming in from the impact board as to what things they'd like to see," Williams said. "There will be limitations of course, but at the same time we're pretty much open to what to address this with. ... We can build and sculpt this as we go."
Committee member Bob Wallesewicz said if the stockpile was made up of good rock, it would be beneficial to the county to make use of it for something like gravel, instead of having to tear up more land in other areas.
"The amount of material that's going to be moved, we know that that's big," he said. "What is it, and what could it possibly be used for? It would certainly be, almost, sinful knowing the little pock marks that we live with up here as we ship our gravel from this county. ... If we can save an area and utilize this material, why in the world wouldn't we at least try and do that."
Charlie Zinsmaster, of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, also chimed in with some input regarding reclamation of the mine site.
"The thing we all need to do is remember we're not inventing fire here," he said. "There's people reclaiming mine sites and have been for over 100 years."
Zinsmaster said Purdue University was performing research on reclamation of open pit coal mines in Pennsylvania and in the Appalachian Mountains.
"There's a lot of work going on on reclamation right now," he said. "A lot of forestry work and a lot of slope and stabilization research going on. We're not the only people that are worrying about reclaiming a site."
The committee is looking to followup with other groups performing reclamation efforts. Members are also preparing to host a public forum and seek input from Iron County residents regarding the reclamation and what they would like done with the land.
"We want this to be a win for the community, we want it to be a win for the environment, we want it to be a win for the mining company too," said committee chair Leslie Kolesar. "We want all the entities involved to feel that this is going to be a great opportunity."
Williams also gave the committee G-Tac's most recent progress report, which included:
-The sites continue to be inspected weekly by G-Tac staff and the WDNR.
-G-Tac staff has conducted 12 site tours, with 99 people having participated.
-Plant and animal cataloging, wet area delineating and data collection continues on site.
-Responses are coming in from landowners within two miles of the project site in reply to a water-well survey questionnaire.