Gogebic Taconite dropped plans for its proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, saying the project is not feasible.
In 2010, the company announced plans to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine with two pits plunging as deep as 1,000 feet, the mine would sprawl over four miles and operate for decades. However, the plans ignited a fierce fight with opponents who feared what the impact the mine would have on the Bad River watershed that flows north through tribal lands and empties into Lake Superior.
"We are not pounding the final nail in the coffin," said Bill Williams, president of the company. "But we don't want to leave false hopes with people up here."
Studies for the mine found more wetlands than the company had anticipated, and more than what the Department of Natural Resources had previously listed, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In 2013, Wisconsin passed a new mining law that worked in favor of the mine and Williams said Gogebic officials were satisfied with Wisconsin's regulatory oversight, however, he said the company remains wary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and how it would handle wetlands and other environmental issues as the project proceeded.
He pointed to a development in July with the Pebble mine in Alaska. The EPA, in a major blow to the gold and copper mine, used its power under the Clean Water Act to seek to limit mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.
A federal judge temporarily halted the EPA's action as the dispute plays out in federal court.
After Gogebic's announcement, Walker's spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said in a statement: "It's unfortunate that the federal requirements for mitigating wetlands make it cost-prohibitive for Gogebic to move forward at this time. We remain committed to working with companies interested in creating quality, family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin."
Williams said Gogebic continues to believe there are massive, minable deposits of iron ore on the site.
He also said a protracted tumble in iron ore prices did not play a role in the company's decision. Rather, he said that parent company, Cline, which is headquartered in Florida and has extensive coal interests, is planning to make more investments in coal mines.