March 28, 2011
Citizens of Northwestern Wisconsin You Need to Wake Up! By: Mike Gellerman/Orienta, Wisconsin
The Penokee Iron Mining Project is now on the drawing board for an open pit taconite mining operation that will stretch along the Penokee Range from Mellon to Upson, paralleling Highway 77. Gogebic Taconite has purchased the option to lease 22,000 acres from the La Pointe Iron Company. The size of the pit is projected to be 4 ½ miles long and ½ mile wide. The depth as they dig to reach the deposit and beyond will undoubtedly be as deep as necessary.
I worked for the last of the open pit iron ore mining operations in Northeastern Minnesota outside of Biwabik. I would drive the company’s flatbed, laden with equipment, downward into the bowels of the pit, red with the blood of the earth, to do my repairs on the shovels that loaded the mining trucks with earth for removal, while uncovering that precious red ore deposit. Huge trucks with tires taller than a man, resembled trucks the size of matchbox toys from the rim of the pit. All day and through the night the trucks would run up and down that dusty winding road, carrying away every pebble as the hole grew deeper. Mighty diesel engine power would move railcars piled high with red gold booty to the docks of the Twin Ports to be loaded onto the ore boats of Lake Superior for a Great Lakes destination of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
From watching pumps run all day long, pumping every day for as long as the operation continued through the years, each spring through winter, my conclusion is that the Penokee Iron Mining Project is all about the water. Once the digging hits ground water there is no going back to the way things were before. This is when the contamination begins that will continue as gallons, thousands upon hundreds of thousands of gallons in precious drinking water, are exposed to the light of day. All this water will have to be pumped from the pit and pushed out into a manmade artificial lake, no longer fit for drinking. This will lower the water table in the surrounding area for everybody living in the watershed who depends on this valuable resource for their survival.
Every day somewhere in the world more safe drinking water is being destroyed, unknowingly in some cases within the United States by hazardous chemicals that seep into the ground. However, fellow citizens, this time if you let it happen the pollution will be for profit and a few short-term jobs, but your eyes will be wide-open. Northwestern Wisconsin has some of the best water still fit for drinking anywhere in the world, but this project will lead to destruction. Being in short supply, can we afford to lose any more of our precious drinking water?