Gogebic Taconite is considering a plan that would keep a proposed open-pit iron ore mine in Iron County, while dropping plans to dig in Ashland County. GTAC spokesman Bob Seitz says there are concerns about opposition from the Ashland County Board, along with a potentially expensive county ordinance adopted last year.
While the chair of the board has indicated a willingness to work with the company, he says there have been recordings of meetings with mine opponents where he says the mine will not win approval.
A mining ordinance passed by the board could also create difficult financial hurdles. It requires the company to put $100,000 in a fund to help pay for environmental consultants, with a requirement that Gogebic make $50,000 payments every time the county requests one. Seitz says there are no limits on that clause, which means the cost of the project could be “infinite.”
As a result of those issues, Seitz says they are examining a plan that would limit the mine to just Iron County. The 3,200 acre project would have included about 440 acres in Ashland County, so the proposal would still likely include a sizable mining operation.
State Representative Janet Bewley, an Ashland Democrat, argues the county board is simply looking out for the best interests of taxpayers. She says the company should be basing it decisions about the future of the mine on science, not political boundaries.
Gogebic Taconite is still doing sampling and survey work in the area. The company recently said it was pushing back its target date for submitting a formal application to the fall of 2015.