Mining opponents were out in force Thursday, during a public hearing on a proposed northern Wisconsin iron ore mine.
The hearing in Hurley comes as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is considering a bulk sampling permit application from Gogebic Taconite, which wants to remove 4,000 tons of rock from the proposed site of the mine in Iron and Ashland Counties. The company is trying to evaluate the feasibility of building an 4.5-mile long open pit mine in the Penokee Hills.
A long line of people turned out to testify during the hearing, which ran through much of the day on Thursday. Dozens of area residents and representatives of anti-mining groups told DNR officials that they are concerned about the possible environmental impacts of the sampling process and of the mine if its eventually approved. Opponents of the project argue the mine could pollute the air and water supplies of the region.
Representatives of several Wisconsin-based Native American tribes were also on hand to speak against the proposal. Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians chairperson Rose Gurnoe-Soulier called the mine an assault on their treaty rights, and the project would “impact the air, water, and the land that we depend on.”
Rhonda Olkonen of Hurley was among those who did express support for the project, arguing it would bring jobs to the region. Olkonen told officials that her husband currently spends months out of the state working and is hopeful the mine will keep families from being torn apart by allowing them to find jobs closer to home.
The DNR is expected to act on Gogebic’s request for a bulk sampling permit later this fall