The Fight for Water & Treaty Rights in the Great Lakes

The GTac Penokee Hills Project | WI

Status | Applications Withdrawn - On March 24, 2015, Gogebic Taconite officially withdrew their application for a proposed mine in Northern Wisconsin. Click here to read their letter to the Wisconsin DNR.

Location | The Penokee Hills, in Iron & Ashland Counties, near Mellen, WI

Type of Mine | open pit – taconite

Estimated Mine Life | 35 years (phase 1)

Anticipated Output |  24 million tons ore/year, 10 million tons waste rock/year (

Concerns |

  • Phase 1 of the project would be approximately 4 miles long by 1/2 mile wide. Additional phases could cover a 21 mile stretch within the range.
  • The ore deposit’s overburden contains pyrite, a sulfide mineral that could cause acid mine drainage. Other potential contaminants common in taconite mining include mercury, arsenic, other heavy metals and sulfates
  • Blasting releases dust and blasting product residue that pollutes the air. The presence of grunerite (a form of asbestos) in the area of the proposed mine has heightened these concerns.
  • The proposed site is at the headwaters of the Bad River. More than 20 additional rivers and streams also flow from the area. These waterways flow into the Bad River watershed, the Kakagon and Bad River sloughs and ultimately into Lake Superior, so any contaminants would end up in the watershed and the Great Lakes system.
  • Both groundwater and surface water levels will be affected by the constant pumping required to operate the 1,000 foot deep ore pit. View the INFOgraphic.
  • The Bad River Reservation, located downstream from the proposed site, is home to the 16,000 acre Kakagon and Bad River Sloughs. The sloughs are home to culturally and economically important wild rice beds. These rice beds are very sensitive to fluctuating water levels and sulfate contamination.
  • The area provides the drinking water source for Ashland, Mellen, Highbridge, Marengo, Odanah, and Upson, making water quantity and quality very important.
  • Public access to Managed Forest Land surrounding the proposed mine site is now restricted. View the Wisconsin DNR map of the closed lands here.

Projected Jobs Created |  700 direct

Company Website | n/a

State Agency Website |

Additional Information | The Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter and the Great Lakes Indian, Fish & Wildlife Commission are actively monitoring this project.

Video |

A Penokees Primer | Get to know the Penokee Hills of Wisconsin. Mining interests are hoping to blast an open pit taconite mine into this water-rich landscape that includes the headwaters of the Bad River. And Wisconsin legislators just passed a bill that exempts iron mining from many environmental protections.

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In The News

Residents File Suit Against WI DNR Over GTac Rock Sampling

Eight Wisconsin residents have filed suit against the Wisconsin DNR claiming that mining company Gogebic Taconite needed a permit before it began exploratory excavations in the Penokee Hills. Milwaukee attorney Dennis Grzezinski filed the suit Monday, March 10, 2014, in Iron County Circuit Court. “The lawsuit argues the Department of Natural Resources’ failure to require Gogebic Taconite to obtain a

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Wisconsin DNR Approves Gogebic Taconite Exploratory Drilling Application

The following notice was taken from the Wisconsin DNR e-mail update, dated May 30, 2013, on Gogebic Taconite’s proposed taconite mining project in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today approved the exploratory drilling application submitted by Gogebic Taconite, LLC. The DNR issued an exploration license to Gogebic Taconite authorizing the company to drill eight exploratory drill

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