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Mine exploration on hold pending legislation

Gogebic Taconite says it is halting most of its field work for a proposed iron ore mine in the Penokee Mountain Range of Ashland and Iron counties.

The push and pull over the proposed four-mile long mine got pulled this week. G-Tac Manager Matt Fifield says they want legislation from Madison before they move forward on the $1.5 billion operation.

"We are in a holding pattern is the way I would put it. Our interest in the project hasn't diminished in the least," he said.

The mine would be in Democratic State Sen. Bob Jauch's district. He says he understands that G-Tac wants a streamlined bill to get a mining permit, but the proposed bill that was pulled twice in the past two months needs work.

"All we have is a bill written by the company, which was rejected almost by everyone across the state as an irresponsible, environmentally reckless piece of legislation."

Fifield says they need legislation that has a specific time lines for environmental assessment before they invest $20 million to $30 million. That's the amount G-Tac expects to spend in preparation over the next three years.

"Senator Jauch is entitled to his own opinions but we have to end up spending the money to do that," Fifield said. "So, under the existing law, there is no confidence that if we went out and gathered the data, we'd be able to use it in a permit application. That's a considerable obstacle to overcome."

If the mine is built, G-Tac says it would create 700 mining jobs and 2100 spin-off jobs. Critics fear it would pollute the watershed draining into Lake Superior.

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