by Ron James
Wolf River Mining Project Update: Thanks to all the people asking questions to the DNR they had to add a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document on the DNR website addressing exploration on MFL enrolled land. Is their explanation acceptable?
Due to increased public scrutiny Badger Minerals withdrawals some of the drilling sites and reduces the total number of holes.
Because so many people phoned, emailed, and wrote letters to the DNR staff, they were forced to address the decision to grant a metallic sulfide mining exploration license on Managed Forest Law enrolled land. The DNR included a statement about exploration drilling on tax-payer subsidized MFL land:
“The current site activity is metallic mineral exploration, not a commercial mining project. Exploratory drilling is not specifically prohibited under Wisconsin’ Managed Forest Land Program as established in Ch. 77, Wis. Stats.”
Does this explanation satisfy the tax-paying public? Ch. 77 Wis. Stats is very clear about “mining operations”. In fact, the words “mining operations” appears as a specific reference to what type of surface disturbance would make the land “ineligible” for enrollment in the MFL Program. To be clear, “mining operations” make the land ineligible for the forestland owner to receive the pennies per acre tax rate deal for land they have enrolled in the MFL Program. Metallic sulfide mineral exploration drilling is surely a “mining operation”, yet The Forestland Group is enjoying the spectacularly low, tax-payer subsidized, property tax rate!
The DNR also includes a description about ‘bulk sampling’ and leaves it unclear if they would also allow the removal of up to 10,000 tons on material from MFL enrolled land. Using the same reasoning the DNR used to allow the drilling of 800-foot deep holes in MFL land, would equate to the DNR allowing the removing of 10,000 tons of material because the words ‘bulk sampling’ also do not appear as an activity that is “not specifically prohibited under Wisconsin’ Managed Forest Land Program as established in Ch. 77, Wis. Stats”.
The mining company (Badger Minerals) had also proposed to drill a hole in an alternative location where there has is always standing water on the surface of the earth. Due to the increased scrutiny the DNR is fielding about the project as a whole, they told Badger Minerals that the location was not acceptable. Badger Minerals withdrew the request to drill in that location. It now appears they are down to nine holes from the initial ten.
The project is running over the initial time period it was supposed to take. Badger Minerals has applied for a ‘Mineral Exploration License Renewal’ and the DNR is considering that now. If anyone would like to contact the DNR and voice concerns about granting a renewal for this license on MFL enrolled land, you can contact DNR staff at the numbers and email addresses shown below. Remember to inquire about how “mining operations” are not allowed on MFL Land, yet ‘metallic sulfide mineral exploration’ is!
Preston D. Cole, DNR Secretary, 608-266-2621, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Callan, Integration Services Section Chief, 608-266-3524, email@example.com
Kyle McLaughlin, Waterways & Wetlands, 715-360-6148, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Balk, Wastewater, 715-635-4054, email@example.com
Melisa Yarrington, Stormwater & Erosion Control, 715-359-0192, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stacy Rowe, Endangered Resources, 608-266-7012, email@example.com
The DNR website showing all the documents is here: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Mines/Projects.html