Iron County zoning officials have taken no action on an ordinance to regulate the mining of metals. That decision after a public hearing on the rules that would affect a proposed iron mine in the Penokee Hills. The hearing drew about a hundred people.
Few empty seats remained in the Memorial Building in Hurley last night...during a two hour public hearing. Residents fervently expressed the need for jobs and environmental protection in light of Gogibic Taconite's proposal to set up a mine on the border of Iron and Ashland counties.
Chairwoman of the Local Mining Impact Committee Leslie Koleser objects to language in the ordinance she thinks will create roadblocks to mining company investment.
“Our community really is falling apart. It's dying. We need some employment here. Nobody here wants the mine if it's going to affect our water quality and our water quantity. But reasonable people want to wait till the science comes through to make that determination.”
But others urged the zoning committee to make the ordinance more restrictive. Wendey Thide lives in Oma and supports a strict ordinance.
“I think we need a local impact committee spelled out in the zoning, we need money for protection, we need all the things that people mentioned today – the dust, the light. All the things that some people say “it's all covered in the state law” - well it's not, and we need to protect ourselves.”
Several speakers traveled from neighboring Ashland county, which passed a strict metallic mining ordinance last month. Those visitors pointed out their shared stake in the Iron County decision, since water runoff from the mine site could cross into Ashland County.
Iron County has hired legal counsel to help refine the ordinance. Gogibic Taconite filed a preliminary application for the project with the Department of Natural Resources last month.