Water On the Line: Gogebic Taconite's push to mine the Penokees

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Cartographer's Statement

By Carl Sack

Water makes up over 60 percent of the human body. It connects us. All living things need clean water to survive. In Ashland and Iron Counties of northern Wisconsin, the water that falls as rain feeds wetlands and tributaries that supply the Bad River, which empties into Lake Superior at the Kakagon Sloughs. The Sloughs are the largest wetlands complex on Lake Superior and a contain large beds of wild rice, a pollution-sensitive plant that is important for food, cultural heritage, and income for the Bad River Ojibwe. Gogebic Taconite (G-Tac), a subsidiary of the Cline Group owned by Florida billionaire Chris Cline, has proposed building an open-pit iron mine in the Penokee Hills, the headwaters of the Bad River system and the underground Penokee Aquifer, which feeds wells throughout the basin to the north. The mine would initially be 4 1/2 miles long, but eventually stretch up to 22 miles long, half a mile wide, and 900 feet deep. Rocks overlying the iron deposit contain the sulfide mineral pyrite, which could generate acid drainage. G-Tac has leased 3,300 acres of Iron County Forest land for storing mine waste, which contains over 1,000 acres of wetlands, including 815 acres that are directly connected to trout streams that wind their way through the area. G-Tac has asked legislators to change environmental laws to strip protections from these waters and speed up the mine permitting process. This is the source. Do we want it protected--or mined?