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Mining could fracture Superior Days

What is considered the "gold standard" of citizen lobbying efforts may be fractured by the debate over an iron ore mine in the Penokee Range.

Last February, 20 elected officials from Ashland and Bayfield counties united to oppose having the mining issue on the Superior Days agenda. The item was vague. It supported mining as long as the environment was protected.

Superior Days is once again considering putting mining in next year's lobbying effort. Democratic State Rep. Nick Milroy of South Range says he's OK with that if it tackles environmental and financial concerns of towns near the proposed mine.

"Because there are a lot of issues with the legislation that passed that are potentially going to be detrimental to our local communities," he said.

Superior may go it alone if neighboring counties can't agree with them, said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Superior/Douglas County. .

"It could. It could come down to where we say yes, mining is important," he said. "How do we do it correctly? How do we do it to protect the environment? How do we put those safeguards in it? Ashland County could stand up and say 'Absolutely, no way. We're not going to participate if we do that'. Then it's going to come down to this is what we feel is in the best interests of Superior Days and this is how we're going to present it."

Mellen is next to the proposed mine. Mayor Joe Barabe used to support the mine but doesn't anymore. Even so, he says a Superior Days mining debate would be OK with him.

"You're going to have pros and you're going to have cons and you're probably going to have the company (GTAC) show up and there's nothing wrong with that either. They should see the web that they've spun. I mean, my God, when you had so many people who were for you, and a year or two later, we're ready to shoot you. I mean, that's where we're at."

Barabe says current law doesn't protect communities near mining areas.

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