Mellen, WI (NNCNOW.com) - A proposed mine in the Penokee Hills of Northern Wisconsin has stirred up controversy in recent months.
Since Governor Scott Walker signed the mining bill in March, Gogebic Taconite has taken action in getting proper permitting in place.
This week GTAC applied for an exploratory license with the Department of Natural Resources which will allow the company to take 13 core rock samples.
The DNR will review the application and get back to the company within 10 business days.
Officials say they had hoped to do this in April, but due to the extended winter, they're about two months behind schedule.
"The next step will be gathering Data, so that's drilling wells, finding the hydrology, how the water works, doing core sampling to find out what the rock is like and all the chemical make up of the rock," said Bob Seitz, Director of External Affairs for GTAC.
The company has been invited to numerous board meetings, talking with people in Ashland and Iron Counties about their plans.
On Wednesday, they explained the process to the Ashland and Iron County Joint Mining Impact Committee and what comes next.
"They are going to do a bulk sampling thing in one of two months, and then that would lead to an intent to mine request for a permit at that point," said Jeff Ehrhard, Chair Person for the Joint Mining Impact Committee for Ashland and Iron Counties.
The Bulk sampling permit comes with a public hearing and comment period pending approval.
Seitz says it will take almost three years to gather data and get the permitting in place, and another two to construct the plant.
The mine will be located on highway 77 between Ashland and Iron counties, but the next question is can the town of Mellen handle it?
"So what's really unusual about this process is that you are talking about an area that doesn't have the infrastructure to develop jobs, and this is a project that can bring the infrastructure into the area," said Seitz.
Some say they aren't sure how that is going to be accomplished without some funding.
"We are not going to see any money up here for the next 10 to 15 years for our infrastructure, and we don't have the kind of money to repair our roads and do the work that's needed. It's a big big thing and without money you can't do anything," said Pete Russo, Chair of the Ashland County Board.
GTAC officials say they will also help fund parts of the infrastructure for the site which will also be beneficial to the city.
"This would be about 1.5 billion dollar investment. Which would make it the largest non utility investment in Wisconsin history," said Seitz.
GTAC hopes to have the mine up and going within the next five years.
Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.