LETTER: Public deserves to know riskOn Oct. 8, new information regarding the proposed taconite mine in the Penokee Range was made public based on the core sampling taken by Gogebic Taconite.
On Oct. 8, new information regarding the proposed taconite mine in the Penokee Range was made public based on the core sampling taken by Gogebic Taconite.
Mike Simonson, a reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio in Superior posted a story about geoscience professor, Tom Fitz of Northland College verifying the presence of grunerite, a rock that contains asbestos fibers, at the mine site. Grunerite since it is known to exist in the Gogebic Range. What was surprising was the “abundance of it … in this one location.”
Fitz went on to say that from his sampling: “The grunerite is probably 60 percent of the rock. That is the richest rock I’ve ever seen,” according to www.spooneradvocate.com.
Professor Fitz said that grunerite is a “real health concern” because when it is mined using explosives, the resulting dust contains little fibers which can lodge in your lungs “as a form of asbestos.” Mesothelioma, the rare lung cancer, is linked to asbestos exposure.
According to the University of Minnesota, the rate of mesothelioma is “70 percent higher in northern Minnesota than the rest of the country.” The link between asbestos related illnesses and taconite mine workers is so strong that the Minnesota Legislature committed millions of dollars to the University to research this health issue. For more information about the Minnesota Taconite Workers Health Study, www.sphumn.edu.
Larry Lynch, a hydrogeologist for the Department of Natural Resources, said grunerite was at this site in May. He said GTAC was made aware of this. Contrary to Professor Fitz’s assessment, Lynch said he didn’t see any “immediate danger” to using explosives in rock sampling.” In the meantime, the DNR is waiting for more information before deciding on whether or not it will allow rock sampling in the Ashland-Iron county area.
We now know for certain that grunerite is present in the Penokee Hills iron ore site and that its potential for posing serious health risks to area residents is real. What other health or environmental risks are out there and when will we know about them?