GTAC said asbestos claim is jumping to ‘conclusions’The company that wants to mine the Penokees for iron ore is disputing recent findings of asbestos-like fibers in minerals there.
By: Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The company that wants to mine the Penokees for iron ore is disputing recent findings of asbestos-like fibers in minerals there.
Two weeks after Northland College Geoscience Professor Tom Fitz found what he called large concentrations of grunerite rock, which contains asbestos-like fibers, Gogebic Taconite wanted to know more. So GTAC, Fitz and a team of geologists toured the Ashland County area last Friday. Fitz said they found more of the grunerite rock.
“It is apparent when you look at the grunerite that it is long, slender crystals whether you look at that in the field with a hand lens or whether you look at it under the microscope, it is apparent that it is potentially hazardous. That’s clear,” Fitz said
But GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz said more lab work needs to happen before these minerals can be declared hazardous.
“They’re making a jump from grunerite to asbestos and there are a lot of facts in between there that just haven’t been shown yet. We want to take a more cautious approach, take a look at what the actual facts are, do the testing on the samples and not jump to conclusions.”
Fitz agrees they need to find out more about the formation.
“There’s reason to believe that this is hazardous,” Fitz said. “GTAC agrees with this and everybody agrees there needs to be more studies on this. Really what isn’t determined at all yet is the extent of this stuff. How far east and west does it go along the (Penokee) ridge.”
Fitz is shipping his samples off to laboratories at UW-Madison, the University of Minnesota-Duluth and Lawrence University in Appleton. GTAC said it is also doing microscopic testing, but results won’t be made public until they apply for a mining permit. That could take another year.