Penokee Range Residents Voice Concerns over Mining on Senator Tour

By KBJR News 1

February 8, 2013 Updated Feb 8, 2013 at 7:21 PM CDT

Iron County, WI (NNCNOW.com) - For Penokee Range residents, like Iron County cabin owners Jim and Maria Minikel, the proposed taconite mining project site comes with its share of concerns.

For the Minikels, their 160 acres butts up against land where a proposed taconite pile would reside. That pile, according to Jim Minikel, would be the first concern.

"It reminds you very much of graphite dust, and my concern is that it's going to be in the air," said Minikel.

Minikel also says the 24/7 mining operation would drastically alter the landscape which he, and his neighbors, friends and family have cherished for years: "There goes the night sky, and [in comes] the noise pollution, light pollution."

But Minikel says his family's top concern is fresh water.

The senator–resident tour included a visit to the headwaters of the Bad River—the largest freshwater estuary on Lake Superior—which sits within the proposed mining site.

Some groups, including the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, are worried that exposed sulfides will run into the watershed and pollute the estuary, along with wherever the estuary flows.

"It's a disaster for us with our lake out there, and the ground water. We're all concerned—water is the thing that we're most concerned about," said Minikel.

"I'm very, very concerned about the water quality in this area—in the Bad River Indian Reservation, and the Bad River Watershed. We have to get it right. We've got one shot at it, let's get it right," said Town of Morse resident John Franke, pointing out the various rivers and streams that connect to the watershed on a map in Minikel's living room.

It's a message that State Senator Bob Jauch says he, and the rest of the group of legislators, will be taking back to the capitol in the hopes of getting a deeper conversation going, "about the wetlands, the waterways, the quality of life, the lakes," said Jauch.

The group of legislators followed their tour with a town hall meeting in Morse, where they spoke with Ashland and Iron Counties Joint Local Mining Impact Committee members and elected officials.

- Posted to the Web by Billy Wagness