Some local officials aren’t thrilled with a state senate bill allowing Gogebic Taconite to cut off public access from its proposed mine site.
The area sits on managed forest land, meaning property owners get a tax break if they open their land to public recreation. Under a bill authored by Senator Tom Tiffany, GTac could close about 4000 acres and pay only a small increase in taxes, rather than a higher tax rate associated with managed forest closed to public access.
Tiffany says the move is necessary to protect GTac worker safety after a protest incident in June. Anderson Town Chair Bud Benter says he’s concerned about safety too; he’s worried that hunters could unintentionally stray into the closed area during deer season.
“People come up here from all over hunting deer. How would they know – can they walk through that woods, can they hunt, where do they have to stop. They’re going to have security people looking for protesters at the same time people are hunting. So it’s just a recipe for disaster.”
Benter says it’s not fair to other property owners for the law to make special provisions for Gogebic Taconite.
“There’s no fairness there. Either it’s closed or its open, or withdrawn. We would just as soon they withdraw the land and pay the penalty, which is quite substantial.”
Benter says the penalty for removing the land from the program could be close to half a million dollars. That will apply anyway if the mine goes forward and gets a permit. Benter thinks the town of Anderson would see most of that money.
Some mine skeptics have also voiced concern that closing the area would make it harder for the public to know what activities are going on at the mine. The legislation has cleared a committee vote.