Iron County

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

  Iron County has agreed to extend a lease agreement with mining company Gogebic Taconite for the next three years. The Iron County board has passed the measure by one vote.

Gogebic Taconite didn't make a $10,000 payment last month and cited budget constraints. But county board chair Joe Pinardi negotiated a plan giving GTac another year to pay.

“What we did was we gave them like a skip payment. So next year by the 26th of January of 2016, they will have to pay us $30,000 instead of $20,000.”

Iron county officials are encouraging public comment in the coming weeks on a draft metallic mining ordinance. 

An Iron County Citizen’s forum last week hosted Zoning Administrator Tom Bergman and special counsel Chris Jaekels answering questions about the document. 

Forum spokesperson Terry Daulton says their message is that public comment is welcome prior to a public hearing on a final draft. 

Iron County has released a second draft of its metallic mining ordinance.

It outlines the process a mining company would need to follow for county approval, and includes a host of regulations and protections. 

Zoning Administrator Tom Bergman says the purpose of a local ordinance is to be more specific than state rules can be. For example, he says the draft includes a requirement that a mining company monitor and test nearby private wells.

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Controversy over a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin will get some national attention this weekend, when a documentary on the topic airs on Al Jazeera America’s investigative program Fault Lines.

Milwaukee-based 371 Productions filmed and edited the piece over the past nine months. 

Producers made a series of trips to northern Wisconsin to look at the impact an iron mine could have on tourism and natural resources. 

A forum in Iron County will take a closer look at economic drivers in the area, and brainstorm possible new ones.

The nonpartisan Iron County Citizens Forum this Wednesday at the Oma Town Hall is looking at economic sectors like timber, tourism and retirees. 

Coordinator Terry Daulton says the idea evolved out of discussions on how jobs factor into the Penokee Mine proposal.    

State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst has filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board concerning a person who voted April 1, in the town of Anderson, Iron County. Tiffany authored the mining bill enabling a company to begin exploring for iron ore in the Penokee Hills of Iron and Ashland counties.

Challengers won three seats in this week’s Iron County board elections.  The wins come despite campaign advertising by a billionaire-backed political advocacy group.

Americans for Prosperity labeled Victor Ouimette, Brad Matson, and Karl Krall as anti-mine activists on a recent mailing.   All three won seats on the county board in this week’s election, beating out incumbents.

A conservative political advocacy group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers is dipping its hand into Iron County board elections.  Americans For Prosperity has been mailing fliers to Iron County residents. 

The fliers decry the influence of wealthy radical environmentalists who oppose a mine in Iron County, and point the finger at seven candidates who are challenging county board seats in next week’s election.     

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Members of the Lac Court Oreilles Harvest Education and Learning Project plan to rotate in and out of the site to comply with Iron County rules. 

Earlier this month the Iron County Board of Supervisors gave Harvest Camp residents six business days to leave, saying they were in violation of a 14-day camping limit. 

Camp spokesperson Paul DeMain says the site will remain as it is, but longterm residents will follow the rules by leaving every two weeks for at least 24 hours. 

Contested county board elections in Iron County have given rise to a series of candidate forums. 

The Iron County Citizen's Forum is organizing the two nonpartisan debates inspired by the League of Women Voters format. 

Organizer Terry Daulton says the controversy over a proposed iron mine has engaged more people in local politics.

“It’s very unusual to have this many people running. And it’s actually brought a lot of people into the fold thinking about what are the things our county is doing – so I think it’s actually energized the public a little bit.”