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More asbestos-like fibers found at proposed mine site

Northland College Geoscience Professor Tom Fitz has found four more areas with asbestos-like fibers in the Penokee Hills.

Fitz initially found fibers a week ago in an old U.S. Steel rock sampling site in Ashland County. On Sunday, he found four more places within a third of a mile from the sampling site with grunerite rock, all in Ashland County. Grunerite contains asbestos-form fibers.

"Long, slender fibers of grunerite are dangerous, and that's what this is," says Fitz. "It hasn't been proven to be dangerous but there is mineral in this rock that is potentially hazardous if it becomes airborne. So precaution is needed here."

Fitz says this was found in the bedrock, not loose rock, so it couldn't be planted there.

Fitz also took pictures and made observations in three other old rock sampling pits in the eastern area of the proposed mine in Iron County. He didn't find any grunerite in that section.

Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe Environmental Director Cyrus Hester was along on this hike. He says the additional findings are a warning.

"There's going to be detailed investigation, as the DNR has indicated previously, to characterize the distribution and abundance of yet another mineral that could be a potential environmental, or in this case, public health concern," says Hester.

Meanwhile, because of the findings of asbestos-form fibers, the Sierra Club is calling for an independent study of that rock formation, and not just studies by mining company Gogebic Taconite.