Protesters voice opinions on new law keeping them off GTAC mine site

By KBJR News 1

February 17, 2014 Updated Feb 17, 2014 at 12:01 AM CDT

Mellen, WI (NNCNOW.com)

"This land was made for you and me." sang a crowd gathered around the land being explored for taconite.

The words of the old Woodie Guthrie folk song drifted through the pine filled gulleys and popple topped peaks of the Penokee Iron Range on Sunday afternoon.
The singers raising their voices are protesting a recently passed law that keeps people out of the public land being explored for the planned GTAC iron mine near Mellen.

"We just sense that this thing has been so fast tracked that there are a lot of things unanswered." said protester Paul DeMain.

Joe Bates is a member of the Bad River Band of Chippewa.
Access to the land and keeping the water clean is important to him.

"We are subsistence hunters and subsistence gatherers and this mine endangers that."

Bates fears that contaminated water running off the mine site will damage the wild rice of the Bad River.

"Certainly the wild rice is very important to us and my son, I want to pass that onto my son and I'd like my son to be able to do that with his children." said Bates.

This protest of the proposed mine was peaceful though some people did flaunt the law against accessing the site.
In nearby Mellen, there are mine supporters who would like one of the 700 high paying jobs the mining company says they'll create.
Representatives of GTAC say they respect the right of people to protest but...

"I would say there's really nothing to protest right now. All we're doing is testing, gathering scientific data and then we can have a good debate." said Bob Seitz of GTAC during an interview via Skype.

Joe Bates says there will be a lot of people expressing their opinions when those debates begin.

"There's people around the entire state that's willing to come and fight for the water."

In Mellen, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

Iron mines aren't new to Iron County, Wisconsin.
Underground and small scale open pit mines were in operation from the 1880s to the 1960s.
Opponents say this new open pit mine would have a much bigger impact on the landscape and go as far as a thousand feet deep and 22 miles long.
Proponents counter that tax revenues to the state would add up to the billions of dollars.