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Mining Critics Call for Independent Testing, Scrutinize Legislation

The state’s Sierra Club is calling for independent testing of a proposed iron mine site.  The group has long been against Gogebic Taconite’s plan to mine in the Penokee Range. 

Dave Blouin is mining chair for Wisconsin’s chapter of the Sierra Club.   Blouin says recent findings of asbestos-like fibers underscore the need for watchdog testing.

“There needs to be independent testing to determine how much asbestos-form mineral is there. It is not appropriate for Gogebic Taconite to do its own testing, and then issue that to the public and to the regulators and say that all things are fine.”

Blouin also says the scale of the project makes it impossible to mine in a way that is an environmentally safe. 

 He spoke at a presentation organized by Oneida County Clean Waters…that focused on details of the state’s new iron mining law.  Details of Wisconsin’s new iron mining law were under scrutiny today at a presentation in Rhinelander.  About 25 people attended the talk organized by the group Oneida County Clean Waters Action. 

Al Gedicks represents the environmental group Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. He takes issue with some of the differences between the recent bill regulating iron mines and existing mining laws.  For example, Gedicks argues the process for challenging a mining project…has been compromised.

“Under the existing law, there’s contested case hearing before a permit is granted. And that means people who are potentially impacted by the project can challenge the assertions of the DNR and the mining company. Under the iron mining bill, there’s no contested case hearing until after the permit is already granted.”

He says that dramatically reduces the effectiveness of the process. 

Gedicks also criticizes provisions that allow an iron mining company to fill in wetlands, as long as they re-create an equal amount of wetlands in another area. 

Gedicks also questions why iron mining should get its own rules, instead of adhering to existing laws prohibiting sulfide mining.    

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