DNR Says Rock Sample Discovery Has Not Changed Mining Application Procedure

MacIver News Service | October 17, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The Wisconsin DNR told an iron mining company it could expect to find grunerite in its proposed mining site and would have to mitigate that risk to public health, even before one of its geologists presented a rock sample supposedly containing asbestos-like grunerite late last month.

“That was a given from the beginning,” Larry Lynch, a DNR hydrologist working on the mining application, told the MacIver News Service. He said the rock sample “hasn’t changed anything from our perspective.”

“It was just a grab sample,” Lynch said. “All it tells us is that that particular rock sample that one of our staff geologists picked up had fibrous grunerite.”

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Lynch said prior to that discovery, he had asked GTAC for a “comprehensive and systematic evaluation to determine if fibrous grunerite is widespread.” One sample doesn’t meet that requirement and even if fibrous grunerite is found to be widespread, GTAC could still go forward with the project with the proper action plan.

However, even though the DNR says that rock sample is inconsequential, it has set off a controversy. Mining opponents are holding it up as proof that a mine cannot be built. Mining supporters question its authenticity because a prominent liberal protester, Jason Huberty, was part of the sample’s chain of custody.

The sample was supposedly collected by Phil Fauble, a DNR geologist, during a site visit on May 14th. He took it to the Wisconsin Geological Survey, where Huberty works as a geologist. Huberty then took the sample to the University of Wisconsin Geology Department, where it was found to contain asbestos.

Those results were then sent to Lynch, where they have had no impact on the application process for GTAC’s proposed mine.

Huberty has testified before the Legislature against the proposed mine and according to on-line court records, he has been cited 25 times for protesting against Governor Walker at the capitol between October 2011 and August 2013.