Mine Opponents Dominate Public Hearing in Hurley

Aug 16, 2013

A steady stream of citizens flowed through the Hurley High School Gym on Thursday, to offer input on early phases of mine testing. Most oppose a company plan to extract iron ore nearby.

Throughout the day, there were speakers and an audience at Hurley High School
Credit Susan Bence

WUWM Environmental Reporter Susan Bence took her recorder to far northern Wisconsin to listen to what people closest to the proposed mine had to say.

The DNR invited public input on Gogebic Taconite's application to test the rock and eventually develop an iron ore mine in the Penokee Range.

Among comments that summarized a majority of opinions:

Rachel Davis, Wausau resident: "The environmental implications are just too catastrophic for me to wrap my brain around. I am very saddened that Wisconsin has taken this turn because we have always been a very progressive when it comes to our environmental policy. I think a lot of people do care about this issue, but they just don't know, and if this were in their backyard, they'd be like, no way. So if we can expand our backyard to all of Wisconsin, then we can get more people on board with this, that this just can't happen."

Paul Gerbav, Ironwood resident: "They do mining in Upper Michigan and in Minnesota - the open pit. Has anybody ever said, these are the rules for Michigan, these are the rules for Minnesota, let's follow these, page by page. They're doing a fine job. People here are sick and tired of $8-$9 jobs. They're existing, barely existing. There (are) no benefits. There's nothing."

Dawn White, mining specialist with Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission: "The first (question about the company's application to excavate 4,000 tons of rock for testing) is regarding the pre-application for the mine permit itself - it's so general. So when can the public expect to see specific information the applicant is proposing? The second question is regarding the trout streams. We see impacts already and all they've been doing is driving around the putting holes in the ground."

Bud Benter, chairman for Town of Anderson, cited concerns about armed company guards mistaking hunters for trespassing protesters: "Deer hunting up here is sacred. (People) plan for it all year long. To be disrupted without any consideration from G-Tac; I talked to (the company). They don't think it's a problem. They even suggested maybe that if you want to hunt out there, you call them and they'll put your name on a list and they'll let you come in."

Gogebic Taconite did not make a presentation at Thursday's meeting.

The DNR has set Sept. 3 as the deadline for commenting on the company's pre-application to bulk sample rock.