HURLEY (WKOW) -- The law to streamline state mining permits may have passed months ago, but the battle over actually issuing those permits continues.
On Thursday, more than 100 people showed up at Hurley High School to gave their opinions on the latest permit Gogebic Taconite is seeking for its proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scheduled a ten hour hearing on the mining company's application for a bulk sampling permit.
One thing DNR officials made clear is that work on any actual mining at the site, which sits south of Highway 77 between Hurley and Mellen, is a long ways off.
"We expect there to be at least a year-and-a-half, two or three years of environmental baseline data collection," said Larry Lynch, a DNR hydrogeologist.
The next step in that data collection involves bulk sampling. Gogebic Taconite wants to remove about 4,000 tons of rock for testing, but the DNR still needs more information to give the company the go-ahead.
"Some more on emissions, a little bit more on stormwater and potential road construction. So, we're getting closer," said Ann Coakley, the DNR's Director of Metallic Mining.
A small number of people showed up to voice their support for the next phase of the project.
"This information will be one part of the exploratory phase, when put altogether, will give us the science about mining instead of the vast amount of speculation that so many are currently engaged in," said Kelly Klein, who lives in Upson, only a few miles from the mine site.
But the overwhelming majority asked the DNR to deny the permit.
"G-Tac has submitted no plans on how to control dust from the bulk sampling process, they also did not specify the extent the adverse impacts to the scenic or recreational areas," said Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin.
Rose Gurnoe-Soulier, who lives on the south shore of Lake Superior, has similar concerns.
"G-Tac's reply to asbestos-formed minerals and its response to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' comments is flawed," said Gurnoe-Soulier.
The concern over possible asbestos-formed minerals in the rock at the mine site is widespread among opponents. While DNR officials say it won't affect the permit for bulk sampling, it could become an issue in the near future.
"We do know that there's grunerite, which one of its forms can be an asbestos form. So, eventually, for example - if they wanted to mine the area, they would have to do extensive testing on the waste rock and the ore so we would know," said Coakley.
But that testing won't happen in 2013 and it appears that once Gogebic Taconite submits the information the DNR is looking for they will begin bulk sampling, possibly as early as October.
HURLEY (WKOW) -- As of 2:00 p.m., over 70 people had testified at the DNR's public hearing on Gogebic Taconite's bulk sampling plan for their proposed mine site along Highway 77 in Iron and Ashland Counties, with the overwhelming majority speaking out against it.
The hearing began at 10:00 a.m. and is scheduled to run until 8:00 p.m. Thursday.
DNR officials started the hearing with a brief informational presentation, saying that Gogebic Taconite's plan for bulk sampling is being reviewed, but that the company has yet to submit all of the information needed for a permit.
Bulk sampling will entail Gogebic Taconite removing about 4,000 tons of rock from the site and moving it off-site for testing and analysis. The company hopes to begin the process this fall.
Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann is at today's public hearing in Hurley and will have live reports on 27 News at 5 and 6.
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