Tim Myers, an engineer, checks out a wetland sedge meadow near Highway 77 in an area inventoried earlier this year as part of Gogebic Taconite’s planning process as it seeks state permission to construct a $1.5 billion open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.
A Gogebic Taconite spokesman said Thursday that the company is considering constructing its massive iron ore mine solely in Iron County because of opposition from officials in adjacent Ashland County.
The company’s plans have called for the proposed mine was to include Ashland and Iron counties.
Ashland County composes about 400 acres of the 3,200 acres of the site.
But with opposition in Ashland County, Gogebic officials will spend the winter studying how the site could be reconfigured to operate in Iron County without the loss of major iron ore reserves, spokesman Bob Seitz said.
If Ashland is left out, Seitz said, the size of two open pit mines would remain roughly the same. But the long-term operation might shorten, perhaps from 35 to 30 years.
Seitz discussed the possible changes after a report in a blog, woodspersonblogspot.com, that said Gogebic’s owners had instructed the office in Hurley to “stop all spending on the project.”
Seitz said that is not true.
No staff members have been laid off, as the blog reported, he said. The company has six employees, which includes geologists and metallurgists.
The Journal Sentinel reported Aug. 26 that Gogebic was pushing back its plans to submit an application to the state Department of Natural Resources from the spring of 2015 until at least the fall of next year to gather additional environmental data.
Because of this, some of the consultants aren’t working on the project until activity picks up in the winter and spring of next year.
The biggest factor in not completing environmental work this year involves analyzing groundwater flow where two open pit mines would extend over about 4 miles, according to Seitz.
The company has drilled five monitoring wells where it owns an option on mineral rights. One well plunges 1,000 feet to the base of the proposed mine. Four other wells measure the flow of groundwater at various depths, Seitz said.
Data from the wells will be used to simulate the mine’s impact with computer models.