At the same time the US Forest Service was celebrating National Public Lands Day on September 24, 2022 by waiving Day Use Fees for entry into the National Forest; Toronto, Canada based GreenLight Metals filed a Notice of Intent to Drill for copper and gold on public land in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The deposit is located near Medford in Taylor County, Wisconsin and known as the Medford-Bend Deposit. The deposit was discovered in 1986 and is estimated to contain 4.23 million tons of ore.
This follows a recent land swap between the US Forest Service and the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands that involved a total of 3,338.48 acres of federal land to be exchanged for a total of 4,349.48 acres of non-federal lands in four Ranger Districts: Medford-Park Falls, Great Divide, Eagle River-Florence, Lakewood-Laona. This exchange increased the US Forest Service’s holding of public land that can be used for mineral exploration and mining by over 1000 acres. The Forest Service acquired the land and associated mineral rights as “fee simple” meaning all conservation easements were dissolved and are no longer in effect. Details: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58537
Mineral exploration and mining is allowed in National Forests because of laws like the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970 and other laws dating back over 150 years. Mining companies increase their potential land to explore and mine by just waiting for more public land to become available.
Canadian based GreenLight Metals plans on drilling eight to ten exploration holes as deep as 1350-feet each. The area of the National Forest where the work will be done contains many wetlands and drilling will penetrate underground water aquifers. Maps and groundwater monitoring equipment located at the exploration site indicate the presence of surface water and groundwater starting at depths of zero to 20-feet below the surface. The drill site is also in a floodplain zone with sensitive aquatic resources.
Maps of wetlands, floodplains, depth to water table, aquatic resources (pages 88 to 93): https://co.taylor.wi.us/pdf/zoning/luac17web.pdf
Groundwater monitoring data: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/dv?referred_module=sw&site_no=451836090354801
Soils the drill will pass through contain highly porous unconsolidated layers of sand, gravel and rocks deposited by glaciers. Taylor County has 283 lakes and 494 miles of streams with 60 miles of high quality classified trout waters. Taylor County has many threatened, endangered and federally protected species of flora and fauna including Bald Eagle, Osprey, Greater Prairie Chicken, Cerulean Warbler, Wood Turtle, and Blanding’s Turtle.
GreenLight Metals anticipates starting exploration drilling in November 2022 and completing activities by March 2023. The DNR has 15 days after receipt of the Notice of Intent to Drill to request more info and only 30 days to approve or deny the plan. Exploration drilling involves using drilling lubricants that have never been tested to see if they contain PFAS forever chemicals. PFAS are an emerging contaminant throughout Wisconsin that cause dangerous health effects.
GreenLight Metals 8-page Exploration Plan can be read here: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/topic/Mines/BendDNRNOISeptember232022.pdf
GreenLight Metals 3-page Mitigation Standards can be read here: (Notice that “If water table depths are less than 15 feet on any drilling site (generally wetlands and floodplains), then sump pits will be prohibited, and re-circulation tanks must be used. The bottom of any sump pit will be several feet above ground water.”) https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/topic/Mines/BendDNRNOIExARedacted.pdf
The entire list of documents provided by the DNR can be found here: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Mines/Projects.html
More can be found out be calling or visiting either of two Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Offices:Medford Office850 North 8th, State Highway 13
Medford, WI 54451
Forest Headquarters Office500 Hanson Lake Road
Rhinelander, WI 54501