130-Miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Threatened by Sulfide Mine Development – What Strategy Does the Ice Age Trail Alliance Have to Save It? Their Annual Conference is April 21st thru 24th

Mining development planned for multiple segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IANST) in Marathon and Taylor Counties. Time for the Ice Age Trail Alliance to Save the Trail! Their Annual Conference starts April 21st. Their phone numbers are: (800) 227-0046 or (608) 798-4453.

The region where the Ice Age Trail meanders through northern Wisconsin is being targeted by foreign-owned mining development companies. The region is known as the Penokean Volcanic Belt. Underneath the granite boulders that define the Ice Age Trail lay massive sulfide deposits of gold and copper. Start-up mining development companies are “green washing” the need to extract these minerals for the sake of transitioning toward a clean energy “green” economy. Gold is not included in that economy and copper is better obtained by recycling.

Near Wausau the 43-miles of IANST are in jeopardy. Central Moraines Chapter’s Thornapple Creek Segment and the Dells of the Eau Claire Segment both traverse in close proximity to the Wausau-Reef deposit that Green Light Metals is developing.

In Taylor County the 87-miles of Trail are in jeopardy. High Point Chapter’s Mondeaux Esker Segment, Jerry Lake Segment, and Lake Eleven Segment, traverse past the planned 8,000 acres of open-pit mine development at Medford-Bend.

A Canadian-owned company owns the mineral rights to 8,000-acres of land in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest in Taylor County near Medford and plans to exercise those rights. In a press release from March 8th and in their 36-page Corporate Presentation to investors Green Light Metals revealed detailed plans to develop mining projects in Wisconsin. The company plans to drill exploration holes at the Bend Project inside the Chequamegon Forest and at the Reef Deposit on 520-acres in the Town of Easton. The company also plans to develop two other properties in the headwaters region of the Wolf River. The Reef site is just a few miles from downtown Wausau in Marathon County. This area is already troubled with PFAS contamination. Details of the Bend drilling plan and Reef drilling plan describe the extensive scope of the upcoming projects.

The Medford-Bend site would include drilling in sections of the Kidrick Swamp State Natural Area. The Dells Of The Eau Claire State Natural Area is nearby the Wausau-Reef drilling. The Ice Age Trail Map for the Dells Of The Eau Claire and the Ice Age Trail Map for Taylor County indicates that hikers trekking the National Scenic Trail will pass through both areas being developed for open-pit mining.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance needs to tell the public what they are going to do to save the Scenic Trail!

Extracting minerals is proving to be a major contributor to PFAS contamination all around the world. PFAS are present in the multitude of chemicals used at mining sites starting immediately during the drilling phase. Recent reports by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the Norwegian Environment Agency, and MDPI Toxics 2022 confirm the drilling fluids, surfactants, and foaming agents used in the earliest stages of these projects begin the PFAS exposure cycle.

Every resident of (and visitor to) Taylor County and Marathon County gets their drinking water from the saturated groundwater aquifer that the drill holes will pass through. The rotary drill is lubricated with the same drilling fluids used in the oil & gas industry. The manufacturers of these drilling fluids do not disclose the full chemical makeup of their products. An exemption from full disclosure allows them to protect the ingredients as trade secrets. The only way to confirm the lack or presence of PFAS is to test the drilling fluids for PFAS content. The DNR placed over 200 products on their approved list without actually testing them. Without testing the DNR lacks the evidence to conclude using these products does not contribute to contamination.

Wisconsin has a PFAS Action Council to address PFAS contamination. WisPAC has member representation from all 17 government agencies including: DHS, DATCP, WEDC, DOJ, DNR and the UW. This group is tasked with preventing further PFAS problems and concerned citizens can participate. So far the previous plan provided by WisPAC has not included a strategy for dealing with drilling boreholes through drinking water aquifers and lubricating the process with chemicals known to contain PFAS. Requiring pretesting drilling fluids prior to approval for use is one strategy that would be effective to make sure PFAS are not being injected into the drinking water.

The public has an opportunity to ask questions at two meetings. The DNR PFAS Technical Group meeting on Friday, April 22, 2022, and the DNR PFAS External Advisory Group meeting on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

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