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Group says geologist rejects findings of asbestos-like minerals in mining area
A conservative media group says asbestos-like fibers are not in the Penokee Range where a company is proposing to build the largest iron ore mine in North America. Mike Simonson reports.
The asbestos-like fibers were first ackowledged by the DNR in August. They reported grunerite minerals which may carry the fibers exist in the mining area. In October, Northland College Geologist Tom Fitz found heavy concentrations of asbestos-like fibers in one mining exploration site.
Four days later, Bad River Chippewa Chairman Mike Wiggins accused Gogebic Taconite of knowing about the fibers but covering it up. Two days after that, geologists from GTAC, the DNR, and Bad River toured the site together, and agreed more study was needed.
In December, GTAC told the DNR that asbestiform fibers aren’t an issue at this stage, and last week criticized the DNR for even bringing it up in a mining report.
Now, the conservative watchdog group Media Trackers says University of Minnesota-Duluth laboratory manager Bryan Bandhi tested the samples and found it wasn't grunerite. Media Trackers then took a shot at Fitz for quote “making a name for himself”. Fitz says he stands by his findings.
“I am sure that this is asbestiform grunerite. So I’m not backing down on anything that we’ve said so far. It may be more complicated than what we had thought.”
He says the dispute is whether it’s grunerite or not, not whether asbestos-like fibers exist. Fitz also insists he is not politically motivated.
“I am a teacher and a scientist and I want to understand these rocks and I want to help people understand these rocks. I don’t have an agenda besides that.”
Media Trackers spokesman Brian Sikma says they are a political operation.
“We are unabashedly conservative in our position but we also make sure we hold everyone accountable and we’re not ashamed of that.”
As for UM-Duluth scientist Bandhi, he says he leaves all comment on the minerals to Fitz. Bandhi says after this, he’s gun shy.
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