Second Geologist Confirms Asbestos-Form Fibers At Proposed Mine Site

December 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Northland College Professor Tom Fitz first found asbestos-like fibers in the Penokees two months ago. Since then, he's discovered more sites of what he calls “a heavy, dangerous concentration.” Now, he's gotten confirmation from a geology professor at Lawrence University in Appleton.

Fitz says the minerals are a threat to the air and water if blasted by mining company Gogebic Taconite. “That is definitely among the most dangerous of asbestos minerals. We're talking about levels of danger that ... we really don't want to go there in terms of inhaling this stuff. This is clearly a health hazard.”

Lawrence University Geologist Marcia Bjornerud examined the grunerite mineral samples sent by Fitz from an abandoned rock sampling site in Ashland County used by U.S. Steel around 1960. “Enough different people have looked at these rocks with enough different analytical methods that at this point it's not a question of whether asbestos-form grunerite is there: It is there. The more important question is how extensive is it across the Penokee Range? That's what we don't know yet.”

The Department of Natural Resources also found asbestos-form fibers there. In a letter sent to the DNR last month, however, GTAC contends it is unlikely those fibers exist there. Bjornerud says ignoring the science puts public health at risk. “At this point it's really ridiculous for GTAC to say that there is no evidence. It's been shown and it's in their court to produce some science.”

GTAC wrote in that same letter to the DNR that they won't examine the area where the grunerite was found during its rock sampling.


By Mike Simonson

Wisconsin Public Radio News