Ashland Mining Impact Committee learns more about asbestos at proposed mine site

By KBJR News 1

October 16, 2013 Updated Oct 16, 2013 at 9:54 PM CDT

Ashland, WI (NNCNOW.com) -- A mineral in the Penokee Hills is bringing many questions to the surface involving the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine.

"Is that asbestos going to particulate out or is it likely to travel in that water down to bad river and lake superior so much?" asked Elizabeth Sutten, a concerned citizen of Ashland.

Which is why the Ashland County Mining Impact Committee held a meeting Wednesday to learn more about Grunerite, an asbestos like mineral which has reportedly been found in the iron formation where G-Tac hopes to mine iron ore.

"It's been well studied at bulk sampling site four right here, but we have also found it in these locations. This spans about a third of a mile from here to here, and in these one's its defiantly in out crop, its defiantly within the layers of the iron formation," said Tom Fitz, a geology professor at Northland College.

He has taken two trips into the Penokee hills to get samples of the rock.

Fitz also says there are sulfide minerals present in the rock which can produce acid mine drainage. He says this is a threat to the environment because it changes the water chemistry.

One woman has seen first hand the affects these minerals can have on people.

"I watched my grandfather suffer from the silicosis; choking on that and my dad was in a terrible mining accident," said Maureen Matusewic, a concerned citizen from Hurley.

The mining impact committee is considering drafting an ordinance to protect people from potentially dangerous asbestos emissions if and when G-Tac decides to mine or conduct bulk sampling.

"We have to look out for this county. Period. No matter what it takes," said Pete Russo, Ashland County Board Chair.

As for G-Tac, it's not commenting until core samplings taken at its test sites are tested and are scientifically interpreted.

The DNR is still waiting to receive G-Tac's final plan on bulk sampling.
Officials say bulk sampling is not expected to happen until after the first of the year.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.
kanderson@kbjr.com

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