GTAC set to sink drills as early as this weekend in PenokeesExploratory drilling into the largest deposit of iron ore in North America could begin as soon as this Saturday in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Range.
By: By Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Exploratory drilling into the largest deposit of iron ore in North America could begin as soon as this Saturday in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Range.
Gogebic Taconite filed a notice of intent to drill with the Department of Natural Resources in a letter dated Friday. DNR Waste Management Director Ann Coakley says GTAC can start drilling five days after they get the notice. That got the notice Monday. Eight holes — one in Ashland County and seven in Iron County — will be drilled this month. Coakley says they’ll keep an eye on the operation with unannounced spot checks.
“When we do go out to do the surveillance what we’re looking for is to make sure that they’re following their plan and working within their methods of operation,” she said.
The bore holes will be from 350 feet to 1143 feet deep. The two-inch holes will gather data on the layers of rock, the quality of the iron ore and the chemicals in the ore body.
The rig itself will be about the same as the kind that drill water wells, so GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz says it won’t be noisy. They’ll use logging roads and take water from the City of Mellen.
Seitz also doesn’t expect any disruption by protesters.
“This is the information that everyone’s wanted to have a good debate,” he said. “We think the debate will be a much more high quality debate when we have the facts on the table and this is the beginning of gathering those facts that will allow any supporter or opponent to be able to make their case and make it without speculation.”
But Coakley says while the make-up of waste rock would have to be made public, she says the quality of the ore body is proprietary and could remain secret.
Iron County Development Zone Director Kelly Klein says this is a milestone, the first physical operation for an open pit mine that he hopes will bring hundreds of jobs to his area.
“(We can) start looking at the science of a project like this rather than speculate on what might happen or what might not happen,” Klein said. “I’m very anxious to see it move forward.”
More bore holes could be requested by GTAC when they’ve looked at their samples. But Seitz says lab work could take more than six months.