LETTER: Mine questions need answersThe Penokee Range mining project is designed to be an open pit mine. There is no debate this type of mining will result in permanent changes to the landscape.
The Penokee Range mining project is designed to be an open pit mine. There is no debate this type of mining will result in permanent changes to the landscape. If images of open pit mines coming from Michigan and Minnesota aren’t bothersome, consider the fact the Penokee Range site will, without any doubt, impact water resources far beyond Northern Wisconsin. Let me explain how.
The Penokee Range mining operation has an elevation of 2,000 feet. It has over 200 inches of snow a year. As such, this area makes up the headwaters and the source of drinking water, surface and groundwater, for the municipalities of Ashland, Mellen, Highbridge, Merengo, Odanah and Upson. Contaminants from the Penokee range will have a significant impact on the water resources downstream, including Bad River, the Kakago/Bad River sloughs and finally Lake Superior. (Lake Superior is the largest fresh body of water in the world.)
Older mines followed iron rich veins and were accessible by building shafts. Open pit mines remove all the rock on top of the taconite. This ‘waste’ rock contains compounds like iron pyrite, which when combined with rain water will produce sulfuric acid and leach mercury and other heavy metals from the surrounding minerals. Since the processing of taconite will require a tremendous amount of water, many questions need to be answered if we are to make informed decisions about this mine.
How much (actual) water will be used by this mine, where will it come from and how will it be returned to the system? What impact will this mine have on surface and ground water?
What minerals or chemicals will be leached from the exposed rock, including waste and tailings? How will this be contained or prevented from reaching surface and ground water and how will it be treated? Where will the toxic slurry of sulfuric acid and heavy metals be disposed after the taconite is concentrated and treated with lime? How will this impact native and endangered species? What questions need answers for you?