The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cited the documented occurrence of asbestiform minerals like grunerite, left, and cummingtonite in similar bodies in Minnesota, and reports of similar minerals near Gogebic Taconite’s proposed bulk sampling activity in the Penokee Hills of Wisconsin.

GTAC: ‘Asbestos Merely Issues in the Media’ Not the Mine

Mary Annette Pember

Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), the company that is seeking to dig the world’s biggest open pit iron ore mine near the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in Wisconsin continues its battle with the tribe and the state (DNR) Department of Natural Resources.

RELATED: Fighting Mines in Wisconsin: A Radical New Way to Be Radical

The DNR recently released public information regarding GTAC’s plan to conduct bulk sampling of the area in the Penokee Mountains in Northern Wisconsin. Despite repeated requests from the DNR, the Florida based mining company still has not addressed concerns about how they will contain asbestiform minerals or the presence of sulfuric acid from pyrite infused rock. Indian Country Today Media Network called attention to the Wisconsin Geological Survey documented presence of grunerite in minerals contained in the proposed mining site. The National Academy of Sciences cites grunerite as one of the most toxic forms of asbestos.

RELATED: Deadly Asbestos Could Kill Gogebic’s Iron Ore Mine Project

GTAC leaders continue to deny the presence of grunerite in the area. GTAC mining engineer Tim Myers is quoted in the Progressive Magazine dismissing the presence of asbestos. “Asbestos and acid mine drainage are merely issues in the media,” and not elsewhere” he said.

In the same article, GTAC CEO Bill Williams maintains that there are no scientific studies confirming the presence of asbestos.

 In August of 2013, ICTMN quoted geochemist Joseph Skulan about the issue.

“They (GTAC) claim there is no asbestos,” said Wisconsin resident Joseph Skulan, Ph.D., a geochemist until last May with UW-Geology Museum and now a research professor at the University of Arizona. “Their response is a lie or it indicates scientific incompetence. This should kill the mine.”

RELATED: Bulk Sampling Proposed for GTAC, Public Hearing August 15

Earlier this year, Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature passed a controversial change in mining laws that permit open pit iron ore mining in the state. GTAC lobbyists were deeply involved in rewriting the law. ICTMN reported on the deregulation bill that has been widely opposed by tribes, environmentalists, scientists and local governments.

RELATED: Wisconsin Tribes: What Part of ‘No Mining!’ Don’t You Understand?

Despite the relaxed regulations of the new bill, however, GTAC is continuing to struggle with getting approval from the DNR. Once the company provides complete information to the DNR, the agency will have 60 days to approve the plan before further work goes forward.