State legislators lay out requirements for Gogebic Taconite

March 13, 2014

If Gogebic Taconite is to bring its iron ore mine into production in northern Wisconsin it will first have complete dozens of studies and meet an extensive set of requirements that were laid out by state regulators.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said the studies will be to analyze the effect the massive mine could have on pollution of ground water, loss of wetlands and potential threats to air quality — among others, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported.

If Gogebic officials can provide all of the required information, a DNR official said the company could file for a mining application one year from now. That could set up a possible decision as early as the summer of 2016, according to Larry Lynch, project manager for the DNR.
A Gogebic spokesman also said such a timetable is possible.

Gogebic is proposing to construct a $1.5 billion open pit mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Plans call for construction of two pits, hundreds of feet deep, to extract iron ore from the Gogebic range. The company would construct an adjoining plant to process ore into taconite pellets for the steel industry, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported.

In 2013, the Legislature revamped the state's mining laws. The changes weakened the DNR's decision-making criteria on how much a mine's footprint could affect wetlands, groundwater and surface water.

It also provides for a 420-day decision deadline by the DNR after Gogebic completes all of the necessary data.

Before mining begins, Gogebic must receive state permits for potential disturbance of wetlands, navigable waterways and use of groundwater.
A plan to reclaim the land, which calls for using one of the pits as a lake, also will have to be approved.

The DNR also will have to ensure that water quality standards set by the Bad River band of Lake Superior Chippewa are met. The tribe, which opposes the mine, has stiffer standards for measures including dissolved oxygen and the clarity of the water. The tribe also has a standard tied to the amount of sulfide in the rock.

Also, surveys on plant life and whitetail deer must be conducted. There also will be an evaluation of how the mine affects the gray wolves and bobcats in the area, as well as protected species such as bald eagles, American martens and wood turtles.


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