IRON COUNTY (WKOW) -- Hundreds of people are expected to weigh in on the future of a proposed iron mine site in northern Wisconsin Thursday.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has scheduled ten hours for a public hearing on the next phase of mining company Gogebic Taconite's testing at the site located along Highway 77 in Iron and Ashland Counties.
The hearing will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hurley High School and will specifically deal with Gogebic Taconite's plans for bulk sampling this fall. That's a process that will involve removing about 4,000 tons of rock from the mine site, which will then be put on trucks and transported off-site for testing and analysis.
The public will be allowed to give comment on that process as well as the company's pre-application which they've submitted to the DNR.
Company officials say they expect strong support.
"There's a difference in some places between the folks that have lived here for generations and some new folks that have come in," said Bob Seitz, a spokesperson for Gogebic Taconite. "And I think for the people who were here when mining was going on, there's a high level of acceptance. And I think among the families whose kids had to leave this area to find work, there's a high level of acceptance."
But opponents say there will be far more people speaking against the next phase of testing on Thursday.
"If this mine goes through, it's gonna hurt the water, the air, the land, especially the water," said Mel Gasper, who runs the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Harvest Camp. "And when we look seven generations ahead, we want to have something for when our children will be here."
The Harvest Camp, located on the eastern edge of the mine site, is where Gasper and others have been staying in protest for the past few months.
Despite being in violation of a local ordinance that limits camping to two consecutive weeks, they are being allowed to stay there by the Iron County Board.
But the armed guards that protected the mine site in July, still haven't come back. That's despite the fact that Bulletproof Securities of Arizona now has a license to operate in Wisconsin, something it did not have previously.
Gogebic Taconite originally hired that company after a group of other protesters raided some drill testing sites in June. Seitz says they will bring the guards back if and when the need arises.
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