Keep door open to mining

Published: Ashland Daily Press Editorial Saturday, February 12, 2011 

The fact the Gogebic Taconite Company is undertaking a feasibility study to determine whether or not it wants to apply for a permit to mine iron ore in the Penokee range has been met with mixed reactions.

There are some who would race to embrace the development and the jobs it would provide for our region and state.

Others don't want mining of any type, fearful of the potential negative impacts on the environment and quality of life in the northwoods.
 With Gogebic Taconite only in the process of filling out paperwork to undertake exploratory core samples, we feel it is far too early to shut the door on this project.

The potential positive economic impact of a new industry is enormous and can't be dismissed. Gogebic Taconite is projecting an operational mine which could employ as many as 600 people in jobs earning over $50,000 annually plus a solid benefit package. In addition to the direct employment, there would be a spinoff effect for numerous local, retail and service industry jobs.

That spinoff can't be underestimated. People who are working would be purchasing cars, clothing, groceries and other goods and services. Workers would need homes to live in, and their children would be educated in our schools.

It's likely Gogebic Taconite would be required to put money into fund such as the one used by Minnesota's Iron Range and Resource Board, designed to spur economic development that would take up the slack at the time when the mine is exhausted.

In Minnesota, the taconite production tax is paid by mining companies in lieu of property taxes. The IRRB distributes money to direct property tax relief, as well as providing grants to cities and townships, school districts, counties, economic development groups to be used for grant and loan funds and other projects, such as, for example, a contribution to the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2009, some $98 million was distributed, according to the Iron Range Resources annual report.

At this point, there are still many unknowns and questions to be answered. We do know however that if done correctly and diligently with the cooperation of local and state agencies, this could be a huge windfall for many generations to come.

The opportunity to have a reborn industry that brings an economic boost to the region is exciting. While its very early in the process we feel that there can be a balance struck of building a viable industry to help northwestern Wisconsin prosper while preserving the integrity of the environment and quality of life.

For the present, we feel the door needs to be open to the prospect of the rebirth of an industry in northern Wisconsin.