Asbestos fibers discovered at proposed iron ore mine site in Wisconsin

8 Oct 2013 by Wendi Lewis under News

Gogebic Taconite GTAC Fox 11 news 100x100 Asbestos fibers discovered at proposed iron ore mine site in WisconsinThe Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced Monday that is present in a rock sample taken from the proposed site of an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The asbestoform fibers were found in the mineral grunerite. and asbestoform fibers present a danger to public health if they are inhaled or ingested, which may result in the development of .

is a rare form of cancer that most often affects the lining of the lungs or the abdomen. In rare cases, it may also affect the lining of the heart. There is no known cure for .

The proposed iron ore mine is a $1.5 billion project by Hurley-based Gogebic (GTAC), which is a unit of a larger coal mining business based in . The mine could stretch for four miles, mining iron from a large open pit.

The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey confirmed the presence of in rock samples from the proposed mine site. Larry Lynch, a hydrogeologist at the DNR, told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that Gogebic would be required to conduct studies on the extent of in the rock, and present a plan for containing airborne emissions from the mine site if the company files a formal application to proceed with the iron ore mine project.

Already, area residents had voiced concerns that the mine would endanger streams and habitats downstream of the site through the release of acidic sulfide rock. The discovery only heightens concerns about the project.

Awareness about the possible link between iron ore mining and has been raised in recent years when a greater than average number of miners in Minnesota were diagnosed with . This resulted in the Minnesota State Legislature funding the five-year, $4.9 million Minnesota Workers Health Study. The results were mixed, with scientists from the proving a definite increased risk of contracting among iron ore miners, but no definitive link between mining operations and .

At the end of July, Gogebic submitted a letter to the DNR addressing some concerns about the bulk sampling plan for the site, which included the notation that “… asbestiform minerals are not likely to be present in the Gogebic Iron Range near Mellen, WI.”

Following the confirmation that is present in the minerals at the mine site, University of Wisconsin Geochemist Joseph Skulan and Northland College Geologist Tom Fitz visited Site Number Four at the proposed mine location. They easily found asbestoform grunerite, also known as brown . Fitz told The Daily Press the grunerite is “abundant” at the site.

According to Gogebic’s bulk sampling plan, the company plans to remove more than 400 tons of rock from the site during bulk sampling. Skulan estimated grunerite formed about 1 percent of the rock present at the test site, which would mean the sample size would contain about four tons of gunerite .

Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz told Fox 11 News the company will conduct studies to determine the extent of the in the rock. He said the company’s previous assumption that it would not find at the site was based on information it had received from consultants and decades-old exploratory work conducted on the site by U.S. Steel.


Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
The Daily Press
Fox 11
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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