Jan 30, 2015

Mine Owners Cry 'No Money' as Iron County Board Faces Decision on GTAC Lease

"Why should Iron County be subsidizing billionaire Chris Cline at the expense of poor, local taxpayers?" (StellaReport)

Few objective Wisconsin citizens believed Gogebic Taconite's (GTAC) proposed massive open pit mine operation was a full-employment and pro-environmental center in disguise despite repeated statements by mining company officials assuring benign and encouraging results.

But some residents of Iron County will believe pretty much anything in their desperation for promised jobs and money from the Koch brothers. But reportedly, the Iron County Board is considering that it has been taken for a long ride.

GTAC funneled over $ Millions into GOP coffers and allies, including of course Scott Walker who asked that GTAC money defending his Recall election be funneled through Wisconsin Club for Growth. (Marley, Bice and Bergquist, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) GTAC coughed up $700,000 for Club for Growth at Scott Walker's urging.

Now, GTAC's lease with Iron County is up for renewal.

An Iron County attorney, Anthony Stella, is blasting GTAC's cries that it has no money and needs to lease the Iron County land for free with no payments to Iron County until 2016. (StellaReport)

Writes Stella:
This whole scenario should also be a wakeup call. Chris Cline [the billionaire behind GTAC] is not serious about this project. He can't be. He has severed the umbilical cord between him and GTAC. He is not only embarrassing Iron County, he is embarrassing [GTAC president] Bill Williams and the local GTAC employees. They have come bearing promises of a $1.5 billion investment, and now can't pony up $10K to secure the rights to property which is essential to their plans? Clearly Cline has the money. He has made the deliberate decision not to spend it on this project, just as he already instructed GTAC to lay off all the workers and stop spending any more money last fall.

WAKE UP IRON COUNTY! If GTAC can't afford to come up with $10K to pay Iron County for a year, they certainly aren't in a position to spend the millions that will be required for more drilling and testing over the next year. This is also a red flag. These guys cannot even manage a budget during this early phase. Are we going to trust that they can run a profitable mining venture? When it comes time for cleaning things up and reclamation, will they say they're out of money? If they can't honor their contracts before they've even gotten started, they can't be trusted to honor them later.

We heard excuses from Bill Williams about why nothing is happening. First he said they let employees go last fall because it was late in the year and they couldn't finish environmental work before winter. Last week we heard they would not drill this winter because no snow had been removed. Days later he told Wisconsin Public Radio they were holding off over fears that an EPA decision on a mine in Alaska might lead to a similar decision against GTAC, and he added that Iron County's proposed zoning ordinance also was a concern. But now we learn the real truth. The well has gone dry. Chris Cline won't fork over any more cash, even after generously giving $700K to his buddies in Madison.

What about Cline and GTAC's abiding concern for jobs and the environment? Turns out this was BS, and even credulous Iron County residents may begin to wonder if the proposed mine's destroying and poisoning the environment was ever a bright idea to begin with.

Stella noted last night at the Citizens Concerned about the Proposed Penokee Mine site (Facebook):

"I have had very encouraging and constructive talks with several board members in Iron County. There's reason to believe a dozen or more are open to rejection of the lease extension agreement. This needs to be approached right, including making sure they have the right legal advice going forward. There's also a lot of pressure on some of these folks, so try to resist the urge to attack board members for past decisions made. If everyone is constructive going forward, we'll get the best results. As Mike Wiggins [of the Bad River band of the Lake Superior Chippewa] said the other night, 'the parties all have a lot of mutual interests, and it's time to focus on moving forward with those instead of fighting over the past or things we can't agree on.'"

Wiggins is right, one wonders if GTAC will pull the plug as the collapse in global iron ore prices leave locals holding the bag and finding it empty.

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