Controversy continues over Marathon County mining project

Greenlight Metals wants to mine for gold in eastern Marathon County
Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 2:48 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Greenlight Metals was in Wausau Tuesday for an informational meeting with the Marathon County Committee on Environmental Resources and Committee on Metallic Mining. They were in town to explain what the proposed steps would be to do exploratory drilling in the Reef Deposit in the eastern part of the county.

The meeting was open to residents and several people showed up to make their voices heard during the public comment portion of the meeting.

People protesting the drilling point out that regulations on drilling chemicals were rolled back in 2017 with the repeal of the “Prove It First” law.

“They no longer have to prove, first, that they can do this safely,” said / Concerned Marathon County Resident Nancy Stencil.

Greenlight board member Steve Donohue says the company wouldn’t proceed without input from people in Marathon County, including creating a community advisory committee.

“A primary objective of this company is outreach to communities, conversations with important committees like we’re having here today and conversations with interested members of the public,” said Greenlight Metals Board Member Steve Donohue.

Resident Ron James showed committee members how chemicals can escape during the drilling process.

“The drillbit’s inserted. Through ports in the bottom, that’s where those PFAS-containing chemicals are flying out, all the way down to 450 feet,” James said.

Bore holes are supposed to be sealed up after drilling according to state law, a precaution that james says is not foolproof in keeping hazardous waste out of ground water.

“When the drilling’s done, concrete is needed to seal up each hole, and that’s administered through a small diameter tube. In the case of a 350 foot hole, that’d be seven tons of concrete per hole,” James said.

Greenlight says past drilling in the area did not cause contamination and they’re taking steps to make sure it stays that way.

“We will be implementing a water quality testing program on that site. So we will monitor water quality in the surrounding streams, upstream and downstream of where the drilling activity is going to be occurring,” Donohue said.

Not everyone found that to be a compelling argument.

“There’s no need for gold. If you want gold, it’s locked away in vaults, jewelry boxes. You can recycle your cell phones, recycle all the old electronics, and the same goes for copper,” Stencil said.

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