Mining company fumbles on PR front

Gogebic Taconite needs a public relations expert.

It continues to hide quietly in the wings as a new ferrous mining bill takes shape in the Capitol for consideration in the new legislature in January. It continues to hold out an unclear intention that it might invest $1.5 billion in a new iron mine near Mellen if a new law is passed to streamline the permitting promise.

We have heard its PR loud and clear about the potential economic benefits and job creation such a mine might offer.

We have heard virtually nothing about the other side of the equation, the environmental trade-offs the new mine would bring.

The argument by mining law proponents is that the permitting process includes a full evaluation of the environmental impacts of an open pit mine, so that base will be covered.

That’s true, but it doesn’t in any way prevent Gogebic from providing he broad outlines of its planned environmental approach to the citizens of Wisconsin and its legislators. Any PR person worth his or her pay would advise the company to be more forthcoming about major environmental issues surrounding the proposed mine, including:

• How are the massive amounts of tailings going to be handled?

• Will be mine be back-filled as the digging moves forward?

• How will the flows into the Bad River be handled? Will the in-flows be cleaner or dirtier than the river waters themselves?

• Will the natural sulfides in the rock be managed?

The company doesn’t have to lay out its full EMS – environmental management system – at this early stage. But it could do its cause a lot of good, and it could illuminate the public debate, if it put forward its broad intentions on how it intends to run the mine.

The failure to do raises hundreds of questions, skepticism and distrust of its intentions.
It would be naïve to think that any amount of disclosure on the part of the company will sway the outright opponents of mining in Wisconsin.

But the sensible citizens, who are looking for a balance between economic and environmental interests, would listen to the company’s plan for how it is going to mitigate the environmental impacts while offering economic positives.

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