Rightly so, the proposed Penokee Hills Iron Mine has raised interest and concern from many people and activist groups. Unfortunately, in the meetings I’ve attended, most of the speakers and commenters present their view of expected impacts with no defensible support. So, it is important to fully inform yourself about the project and its impacts (positive and negative) before making a judgment.
A project such as the Penokee Hills Iron Mine would take many years of study and analysis to have a defensible understanding of the impacts from the mine and facilities; and more study to determine how to mitigate or eliminate negative impacts. This process requires investigation and characterization of baseline conditions, mining and facilities planning, analysis with numerical (computer) modeling to determine impacts, and iterative study to optimize mining and facilities plans to minimize negative impacts. Reclamation and waste disposal planning is all part of the permitting process. Nothing about that has changed with the new Iron mine permitting regulation.
I have no definite idea how Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) would proceed through this process. However, the practical and efficient way is to work with the WDNR and inform the public of plans and results throughout the process. Finding later that an important feature was not initially characterized wastes time and money. That work all occurs before the 360 day timeframe in the new regulation); that 360 day period starts after the formal submittal of that mine-permit-application-information. If the process has proceeded efficiently, when the 360 day period starts, the WDNR essentially knows as much about the project and impacts as the applicant. At that point the main WDNR responsibility is to reaffirm information and prepare the environmental impact statement.
I’ve started by trying to better understand the Penokee Hills environment from what I could find with an internet google (‘Penokee Hills Geology’). Eliminating special interest websites still leaves a few links. One is a U.S. Geological Survey report by Aldrich, Henry R. (Henry Ray), b. 1891. “The geology of the Gogebic iron range of Wisconsin”, Bulletin No. 71, Economic Series No. 24, The State, 1929. It is a good start to understanding the area and is a very interesting report to read.
If the project moves forward, it will be many years before defensible impacts could be determined, which, depending upon what they are, would lead to a decision by the WDNR on the permit application.
Carlton Schroeder, Eagle River