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Experts to discuss mining in the Penokee Range at June 5 forum in Minocqua

May 30, 2014 By Adam Hinterthuer

A final decision won’t be made for years but, already, the proposal to build an open-pit iron mine in Iron and Ashland counties has created a stir in Wisconsin. Politicians have updated state laws.

Protesters are camped out in the Northwoods. Claims are being made about both economic promise and environmental peril. In the midst of the loud debate, it can be difficult to determine what qualifies as sound information.

On Thursday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m., a panel of scientists, engineers and regulators will gather at the Campanile Center for the Arts in Minocqua to speak to the public and bring context to the issue of mining in the Penokee Range. In a series of short presentations, followed by a moderated question-and-answer session, attendees can expect to hear a comprehensive, value-neutral, scientifically based discussion.

The event builds on the popular Science on Tap program held at the Minocqua Brewing Company each month. The series routinely draws large crowds to hear about topics ranging from lake levels to deer management to the search for life on other planets.

“When we started Science on Tap, we wanted to promote the University of Wisconsin’s role as a public provider of solid information on a variety of science-related topics,” says Tim Kratz, co-founder of the series and director of Trout Lake Station, part of UW–Madison’s Center for Limnology. “From the very first session, we had requests to do a program on the proposed mine.”

Responding to that demand, Kratz says, he and other Science on Tap sponsors such as the Lakeland Badger Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, the Minocqua Public Library and Kemp Natural Resources Station decided that, for one night only, “Science on Tap” should be in a bigger venue, tackling its biggest topic yet.

Panelists for the event are:

  • Craig Benson, professor and chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UW–Madison;
  • Ann Coakley, director, Bureau of Waste and Materials Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources;
  • Steve Donohue, director, mining sector services, Foth & Van Dyke, Green Bay;
  • Tom Fitz, associate professor, Department of Geosciences, Northland College;
  • Cyrus Hester, environmental specialist, Bad River Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa; and
  • Dominic Parker, assistant professor, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, UW–Madison.

Larry Konopacki, senior staff attorney for the Wisconsin Legislative Council, a nonpartisan service agency of the Wisconsin Legislature, will moderate the forum.

“We hope the audience comes away with a better understanding of the issue,” says Tom Steele, director of UW–Madison’s Kemp Natural Resources Station and co-founder of Science on Tap. “We are not hoping to sway anyone’s opinion one way or the other, but to provide information that will help them form their own.”

The event is free and open to the public. The Campanile Center is located at 141 Milwaukee St. in Minocqua. Doors open at 6 p.m. Video of the event will be available after the program here.