Dozens Testify at Bulk Sampling Hearing in Hurley

By KBJR News 1

August 15, 2013 Updated Aug 15, 2013 at 10:42 PM CDT

Hurley, WI (NNCNOW.com) - Dozens and dozens weighed in on a proposed mine in the Penokee Hills of Wisconsin on Thursday.

The 10 hours of testimony featured people for and against the mine.

""G–Tac's bulk sampling plan is sparse on required information and has not provided the DNR with adequate response to the issues that DNR raised to the bulk sampling plant to date," said Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney for Clean Wisconsin.

The mining company submitted plans in June and July to the Wisconsin DNR to conduct bulk sampling.

G–Tac has proposed to remove about 4,000 tons of rock from four or five sites in the Penokee Hills.

Bulk Sampling will provide the company with information needed to design processing facilities if a mining project were to be developed.

One woman hopes the mine goes through for her family's sake.

"That opportunity to have the mine would bring our family back together," said Ronda Olkonen.

Olkonen is a teacher at Hurley School, where the bulk sampling hearing took place. She and her husband have been living apart for the last three years due to the lack of good paying jobs in the region. He's been working in North Dakota and Iowa.

"I just feel like our area needs it. My family and his family both come from the mining industry and I would like to continue that," said Olkonen.

Many are hopeful a mine will bring much needed jobs to towns such as Hurley and Mellen, but others advise against this way of thinking.

"One of the reasons I came over here is to try and tell the local residents that mining is not necessarily the answer for economic development in a small community," said Bob Tammen.

Tammen lives on the Iron Range and worked in the Sudan Mine before it closed. He pointed out that Minnesota has had a long history of mining but it has not always lead to prosperity.

"We have had 130 years of mining, and in the last census, Virginia lost population, there is our story," said Tammen.

The story of Mining in the Penokee Range is just starting, and the debate is expected to continue.

"Our point is, if you have the courage of your convictions, wait until we find out and we can have a logical scientific debate about what actually is there instead of people speculating about what might be there," said Bob Seitz, director of external affairs.

People can submit written comments to the DNR about the bulk sampling plans until September 3.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.