Journalists on the journey from California to the Great Lakes met first with opponents to the siting of an open-pit mine that is expected to be 2 miles by 4 miles and at least 800-feet deep, including Pete Rasmussen Penokee Hills Education Project, who accused Gogebic of re-writing the mining laws in Wisconsin to favor their proposed project and bemoaned plans to explode “millions of tons of rock” in a pristine area.
Company officials later said that while they played a role in guiding the language of new laws, they did so because the Wisconsin laws had been written to move mining out of the state after the boom years earlier in the 20th Century.
Florida-based Gogebic Taconite is currently at the center of an intense debate about mining in Wisconsin. Proponents of the mine tout the economic benefits and the GOP majority in Wisconsin’s legislature recently passed a bill designed specifically to help get the project underway. But an opposition of non-profits, tribal councils, politicians and citizens is causing quite a stir in the usually low-key Northwoods.
Reporters also met with two families who live near Caroline Lake, about a mile and a half from where the ‘tailings’ from the ore mine would be piled.
Maria Minikel, one of the neighbors, said her concerns have widened since she first heard about plans for the project.
“At first, I started thinking that is was not good for our family, but now my circle if concern has broadened – I don’t believe it will be good for the environment,” she told members of the group.
Later in the day, members of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of the Chippewa, who talked about threats to their wild rice fields along the river – and fears of contamination from the mine siting.
But during the second half of the day, the reporters heard from public officials and residents of Hurley, Wisc. , who said they welcome the jobs that would come along with the mine siting – provided that the company would be environmentally responsible.
The day ended with a dinner with those officials and representatives from the company, who talked in more detail about those plans.
Follow along on Twitter by using the hashtag #ijnr_mining to learn real-time details today as the group turns its attention toward energy issues in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin – and ends the night with a wolf howl in the dark.