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Company Won’t Pursue Further Mining Exploration on Timber Company-Owned Oneida Co. Site

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Badger Minerals won't pursue further exploration on Heartwood Forestland-owned property in the town of Schoepke. That property had been the initial target of a drilling program, but Badger Minerals owns other lands in the area which could be explored.

Badger Minerals won’t pursue further sulfide mining exploration at a timber company-owned site in eastern Oneida County, the company told WXPR. The site is near the Wolf River.

Credit Ben Meyer/WXPR
A bend in the Wolf River, less than a half-mile from some drill sites.

In June, the company drilled six holes at the site in the town of Schoepke, a first step to determining whether the area could be a good place for a sulfide mine. Profitable sulfide minerals include gold, silver, lead, zinc, and copper. Badger Minerals had the option to buy the land from a private landowner, Heartwood Forestland, if the results looked promising.

But Badger Minerals geologist Eric Quigley told WXPR the results of the drilling program “were not considered significant enough to justify the purchase.”

Credit Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications
A portion of the land on which exploratory drilling took place. The timber harvest on the land is unrelated to the drilling.

In making the determination, Badger Minerals, a Michigan-based subsidiary of a Canadian company, sent drill cores from hundreds of feet below the earth to be reviewed by geologists. Some sections were likely lab-analyzed to determine geochemistry and metal content.

Badger Minerals’ 24-hour drilling program at the site lasted from June 5 to July 1. It was the first mining-related exploratory drilling in Wisconsin since 2012, and the first in Oneida County since at least the 1980s.

The project drew criticism from people within Oneida County and across the state, in large part because of its proximity to the Wolf River. The river passes within a half-mile of some drill sites.

In an email on Thursday, Quigley clarified that the company owns property nearby in Schoepke and may still pursue additional drilling on those lands. It would no additional approval from the county or state to proceed on that property. Quigley also indicated Badger Minerals is "continuing to assess additional targets in the area," including in Schoepke and Oneida County. Quigley said, however, there are no immediate plans for additional drilling.

In an earlier email, Quigley said Badger Minerals’ decision not to pursue further exploration at the Heartwood-owned site shouldn’t be a surprise.

Credit Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications
Ron B. Zabler, wearing a "No Schoepke Mine" shirt, owns land near the drilling sites. He strongly opposed mining exploration in the area.

“The majority of exploration targets don’t progress into more advanced exploration,” he wrote. “It is rare to evaluate an exploration target which justifies additional testing, rarer still to have that same target turn into an advanced stage exploration project, and exceptionally rare for that target to turn into a project where the feasibility of actual mining is contemplated."

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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