A mining company will not pursue further exploration of minerals near the headwaters of the Wolf River, activity that raised alarms with some local residents concerned about the health of the pristine river.
Eric Quigley, the consultant for the company, said the results of the drilling program weren’t worth pursuing further and the company will not be purchasing the land that the drilling was conducted on. But that doesn’t mean that the company won’t continue to explore in northern Wisconsin.
“While the company doesn’t have any immediate plans for additional drilling on this parcel it is possible that additional exploration work (including drilling) may take place in the future,” Quigley wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon.
He also said that it’s not uncommon for exploratory projects to end like this.
“It is rare to evaluate an exploration target which justifies additional testing, rarer still to have that same target turn into an advanced stage exploration project,” he said in an email. “And exceptionally rare for that target to turn into a project where the feasibility of actual mining is contemplated.”
In June, the company drilled six holes at the Shoepke site, pulling cores from the earth in search of minerals worth mining from the ground. The site lies about 20 miles outside Rhinelander and is intersected by a tributary of the Wolf River. The area where the drilling was done is part of a band across northern Wisconsin rich in minerals, including zinc, lead, copper, gold and silver.
Badger Minerals is a subsidiary of the Canadian-based company Can-American Minerals Inc., aimed at exploring for viable mineral deposits. The company consists of a number of investors and exploration geologists with experience conducting exploration projects throughout the U.S. and Canada.
But the company faced pushback from local residents and tribal nations in the area, who said that the land was sacred to them.
Ron James, who has actively spoken out against the exploratory drilling, said Wisconsin residents statewide should be glad that no further action will be taken at the site.
“This has saved all the people of Wisconsin a potential hit to their taxes for the cleanup of the mess that’s always left behind after a mine,” he said.
Eric Rempala, another activist who campaigned against the drilling, welcomed the news but said it’s only a small reprieve from the fight against mining in Wisconsin. He said that he still plans to work against Act 134, which opened up the state to mining after years of prohibition, and to educate Wisconsin residents on the effects mining can have.
“We’re working on getting more local power, more voices heard,” he said. “But we know it’s a long process.”
For now, Rempala and others are working to draft an ordinance that can be passed in towns concerned about mining, and then eventually can be taken to the county government as well. He said that just because Badger Minerals didn’t find enough minerals to justify further exploration or a mine doesn’t mean they won’t find enough somewhere else in the state.
“We understand we’re a target,” he said.
Laura Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/SchulteLaura.