Penokee Mine

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Proponents of an iron mine in northern Wisconsin are disappointed that Gogebic Taconite has closed its Hurley office and appears to be backing away from its plan to mine the area. 

State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst blames federal EPA regulations that he says make wetland remediation cost-prohibitive. 

“Whereas at the state level, we set certainty into our bill so they knew what our costs are going to be, they’re not sure at the federal level what those costs are going to be.  So that’s certainly had a chilling effect and impacted their decision.” 

A group of people are planning a snowshoe hike through the Penokee Range this weekend that crosses land closed to the public because of mining-related activity. 

The hike meets Sunday at the site of the Harvest Camp, or HELP Village on Moorepark Road in the town of Anderson in Iron County. 

Village spokesperson Paul DeMain says the area should be open to the public despite a company’s plans for an iron mine there. 

Wisconsin’s six Chippewa tribes are organizing a conference on economic alternatives to mining January 7-9.  

Red Cliff Mining Resources Specialist Sandy Gokee says the tribes are inviting specialists to talk about the impacts of iron mining, as well as explore the potential of other economic drivers. 

“We wanted them to share their knowledge about the effects of mining.  Viable alternatives to extraction, cultural knowledge; because we wanted to kind of bring it all together with our native world view.” 

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. 

Native American Activist Winona LaDuke is speaking out against a proposal for an iron mine in the Penokee Range.

LaDuke holds degrees in economic development from Harvard and Antioch Universities.  She says she doesn’t buy the argument that the mine is needed to create jobs. 

“It’s absolutely not true.  The fact is that it’s a short-term economic gain for a few people and a corporation with the rest of us paying all of the externality expenses.  So what I’m saying that their math is bad.” 

At least one tribal leader is optimistic after the recent meetings between Midwest tribes and the EPA this week.

Lac du Flambeau Spokesperson Brandon Thoms says according to tribal President Maulson, the discussions were positive. 

“It showed that there’s definitely a willingness between the EPA to work with the tribes, and President Maulson indicated that the tribes are understood that they have a vested interest.” 

Two presentations this week will focus on the wetlands around the Penokee Hills. 

Tracy Hames, Executive Director of Wisconsin Wetlands Association, will be giving a talk in Mercer on Thursday, and Hazelhurst on Friday.

Hames says his group has been researching the hydrology of the Penokee Hills, in hopes of understanding the possible impacts of an iron mine proposed for the area. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

A film about a proposed mine in the Penokee Range is screening around the state and in northern Wisconsin. 

Milwaukee-based 371 Productions produced the film for Al Jazeera America’s investigative series Fault Lines.

The half-hour documentary looks at how Gogebic Taconite’s iron mine would impact the environment and the livelihoods of people in northern Wisconsin, and raises questions about the democratic process and the passage of the state’s new ferrous mining bill. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Governor Scott Walker says he hopes the EPA won’t intervene based on political reasons to stop an iron mine permitting process from moving forward. 

Wisconsin’s six Chippewa tribes have asked the federal agency to step in before the state DNR or the Army Corps of Engineers reviews a proposed mine in the Penokee Hills.  The tribes say water quality and fisheries protected by treaty rights are at stake.

Stopping in Rhinelander today, Governor Walker said state laws offer strong environmental protections.

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. 

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