WI tribes go to EPA to try to stop G-Tac mine

By KBJR News 1

August 19, 2014 Updated Aug 19, 2014 at 7:13 PM CDT

Mellen, WI (NNCNOW.com) -- It has been business as usual at the proposed mine site in the Penokee Hills, as Gogebic Taconite continues testing the area in hopes of building a $1.5 billion iron ore mine.

"We have had 20 to 25 people a day up on the site," said G-Tac spokesperson Bob Seitz. "They have been doing archeological work, checking on wetlands, finding wet lands and delineating them."

While G–Tac does its testing, people in opposition are trying to stop permitting of the mine by going straight to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We will be meeting with the EPA on August 21 down in Grand Traverse, Michigan and hopefully we will have some fruitful discussions there about the Bad River Watershed," said Bad River Tribal Chair, Mike Wiggins, Jr.

Tribal members from Lac Du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles, and Sokaogon will join Wiggins at the meeting on Thursday.

The six tribes of the Federation are requesting that permitting be halted under section404c of the Clean Water Act.

The section allows the EPA to veto permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.

"It would bring a federal regulator in that has objectivity and takes a holistic approach to what's really at stake in the Bad River watershed rather than a bunch of mining company hired specialists trying to figure out how to negotiate a permit process so they can explode the headwaters of the Bad River watershed," said Wiggins.

The EPA regional administrator can deny permits if they determine the impact of mining discharges of dredged or fill material is likely to result in degradation of the water supply, cause loss of wildlife habitat or severely, negatively impact recreation areas.

Seitz says the company is already working with federal and state agencies to analyze the environmental impact.

"We had six DNR wetlands experts out, along with three Army Corps of Engineers Wetlands experts out. So, really, they don't need an invitation. We have invited them, we have asked them out there," said Seitz.

At this point the mining company has drilled 22 core sample holes and is waiting until winter to drill six more.

Seitz says the company was hoping to apply for a mining permit in the spring, however, they still need to analyze the data they've collected so far.

Gogebic Taconite has already applied pre-applied for a mining permit.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson