Mining company expected to finish exploratory drilling this week – by The Associated Press (Green Bay Press Gazette – July 15, 2013)

MADISON — A company looking to dig a huge iron mine just south of Lake Superior is set to finish exploratory drilling, setting up a lull that could dampen tensions with protesters, at least for a while.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials say Gogebic Taconite workers should finish drilling their eighth and final test hole in the Penokee Hills within three or four days. The test boring is designed to help the company determine if mining in the area is economically feasible as well as what minerals lay within potential waste rock and the pollution risk they might pose, said Ann Coakley, director of the DNR’s waste and materials management bureau.

Gogebic Taconite officials next want to remove larger rock samples from five sites in the area, an effort known as bulk sampling. The company would haul those samples to a test plant, where they would be processed into final taconite pellets to give the company an idea of total processing time, Coakley said.

The DNR hasn’t granted a permit for that operation yet, though. Agency officials asked the company two weeks ago for more details on the plan, including what kind of explosives would be used, air emission estimates, a site wetland inventory and anti-erosion and anti-pollution measures. Coakley said the company had not responded to the request as of Monday morning.

Once the company supplies the specifics, the DNR will hold a public hearing on the request, Coakley said. That could take place sometime in August, she said. Actual sampling likely wouldn’t begin until September or October, she said.

Gogebic Taconite wants to blast a 4½-mile-long open pit mine in the forested hills. The project has been a flashpoint of contention for environmentalists, who insist the mine will scar the landscape and leach minerals and compounds that would pollute the water-rich region.

Protesters have gathered in the woods around the site. They confronted mine workers there last month. A female protester from Stevens Point was charged with robbery by force in that incident after she allegedly took a camera from one of the mine workers.

A video of the incident shows hooded protesters emerging from the woods and spewing profanities at mine workers as the female protester and worker with the camera wrestle for the device. The protester finally rips it free and runs off.

For the rest of this article, click here: