An excellent overview of the project and its ramifications. 11/17/10 

 Company would spend $1 billion on project 

 Nov. 17, 2010

By Lee Bergquist 
 of the Journal Sentinel

  An affiliate of a 
 privately held coal-mining company is proposing to spend more 
 than $1 billion to develop a large open-pit iron ore mine on 
 an ancient mountain range in far northern Wisconsin. 

Gogebic Taconite has 
 purchased an option to lease the mineral rights on 22,000 
 acres covering 22 miles, near Mellen and Upson in Ashland and 
 Iron counties. 
The Company is a subsidiary of the Cline Group, which controls large coal reserves in Illinois and parts of the Appalachian region.  The project is still 
 years from starting. While supporters will trumpet the mine's 
economic benefits, 

It is sure to raise environmental concerns, 
 especially potential threats to the Bad River and Lake 
      Gogebic Taconite will 
 need approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural 
 Resources and other agencies. 
      "Clearly there is going 
 to be a protracted permit process," said state Sen. Robert 
 Jauch (D-Poplar), who has met with representatives of Gogebic 
 and said it's premature to pass judgment on the project. 
      "The message I gave 
. . . is that they need to reach out to those that might have 
 a critical view of the project, as well as those who think it 
 will be positive," Gauche said. "I think that people are 
 watching this with very deep concern." 
 The managing director of 
 the Cline Group, Matthew Fifield, said the regulatory process 
 alone could take five to seven years, adding that the state's 
 rigorous process will ensure that natural resources are 
      The company is 
 negotiating with officials in Iron County for access to county 
 forest land for non-mining uses, such as roads and buildings. 

The next regulatory step: 
 Gogebic expects to file documents known as a notice of intent 
 with the DNR in 2011, which will provide information about the 
 project before applying for a permit, Fifield said. 
 Hundreds of jobs possible 
 If the mine becomes a 
 reality, the project would be the first in Wisconsin since the 
 operation of the Flambeau copper mine, from 1991 to 1997, near 
 Ladysmith, according to the DNR. 
      The mine would employ 
 hundreds of workers. Fifield said comparable operations in 
 Minnesota and Michigan employ at least 600 workers with annual 
 salaries of at least $50,000. 

The large pit would be 
 mined in sections, with used-up areas reclaimed and returned 
 to their natural state, Fifield said. 
 In all, it could operate 
 for a century, he said. 
   Gogebic has told state 
 authorities that it is interested in initially mining about 
 four miles of the parcel, according to P. Philip Fauble, 
 mining coordinator for the DNR. 
      The company hasn't yet 
 submitted documents with the agency, Fauble said. 
      "This would take 
 extensive infrastructure to get going," Fauble said. "We're 
 talking power, water, roads. That's why nothing's happened in 
 the past." 

 The area has long 
-attracted interest from the mining industry. The mine would be 
 constructed in a group of scenic hills known as the Penokee 
 Range. In Michigan, the ancient mountains are called the 
 Gogebic Range. 
 The region has been mined 
 since the 1880s. The last iron ore mined in Wisconsin was the 
 Cary mine in 1965, where miners descended more than 3,000 feet 
 to extract high-grade ore. 

 The industry now relies 
 on extracting lower-grade ore from large pits, such as those 
 in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 
      Taconite likely there 
 Citing figures from the 
 U.S. Geological Survey, Fifield said his company thinks the 
 deposit contains 2 billion tons of high-quality taconite - or 
 more than 20% of known reserves in the United States. 
      Taconite is a 
 iron-bearing rock contained in quartz, chert and carbonate. 
      The taconite would be 
 processed into iron ore pellets for blast furnaces that make 
 steel. The company also is studying whether to make a bigger 
 investment to process the taconite into iron and market the 
 metal to Wisconsin's foundry industry. 
      "It's nuts for Wisconsin 
 foundries to be importing their pig iron from places like 
 Brazil," Fifield said. 

The Cline Group, which is 
 based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is owned by Christopher 
 Cline, who has extensive holdings in coal in Illinois, Ohio, 
 Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 
      Fifield said the company 
 purchased an option in late spring or early summer for an 
 undisclosed sum to lease the mineral rights from a group of 
 companies led by La Pointe Iron Co. of Hibbing, Minn., and 
 RGGS Land & Minerals Ltd. of Houston. 

 If Gogebic is awarded a 
 permit, it will exercise its option on the lease, Fifield 
 La Point, RGGS and 
 another former owner, U.S. Steel, actively have been marketing 
 the mineral rights for years, raising both hope and anxiety in 
 the region. 
      "Big companies have been 
 looking at this for the entire last century. It's been lying 
 dormant," Fifield said. 
  In recent months, Gogebic 
 has been meeting with local groups, the Bad River Chippewa and 
 state officials, including Governor-elect Scott Walker. 
  Walker's transition office confirmed Tuesday that Walker spoke 
 to Fifield. 
 The factors driving 
 mining exploration now: rising iron ore prices; growing world 
 demand, led by China and India; and the company's belief that 
 a modern mine will have cost advantages over those in 
 Minnesota and Michigan. 

The last proposed mine in 
 Wisconsin, the Crandon mine, never got off the ground and was 
 strongly opposed by environmentalists. 
  The land was sold in 2003 
 to the Sokaogon band of Chippewa and the Forest County 
 Potawatomi. At the time, the owner of the mine, Nicolet 
 Minerals Co., complained about Wisconsin's "hostile political 
 climate" for metallic mining. 
      Gogebic's project also is 
 likely to face significant environmental hurdles. 
      The Penokee Range is the 
 headwaters for the Bad River, including Copper Falls State 
 Park, and Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay, said Matt Dallman, 
 director of conservation in northern Wisconsin for the Nature 
      Fifield met with Dallman 
 about the mine. Dallman said the Nature Conservancy hasn't 
 taken a position on it but has had an interest in the region 
 for two decades. 
      The Nature Conservancy 
 was involved in a major land transaction in 2003 when the Bad 
 River Chippewa bought 23,668 acres in the watershed from 
 various parties. 
      Dallman said the 
 organization has concerns over the effect mining would have on 
 pine martens, woodland birds such as the black-throated blue 
 warbler and on the Kakagon and Bad River sloughs, the largest 
 such vegetative areas on Lake Superior. 
      Fifield said taconite 
 will be crushed on site and water used in the process will be 
 cleaned in a wastewater treatment system. 
      Dennis DeRosso, chairman 
 of the Iron County Board, worked in the Cary mine before it 
 was closed. 
   He thinks environmental 
 concerns can be addressed. 
   "The county is 100% in 
 support of this," he said.