by Jesse C. Morton, technical writer, E&MJ
The county board of Marathon County, Wisconsin, adopted rules on April 11 aimed at regulating miner activity targeting the Reef deposit, previously explored and currently staked by Aquila Resources.
According to the local newspaper, the rules prohibit mining within 800 ft of city or county land. They include a permitting application fee of $50,000, which would go toward the resulting bill from the county. That bill could include costs incurred to review the permit, and in mitigating well water impacts, repairing or modifying roads, and compensating communities.
The development aligns with a plan announced by state Sen. Jerry Petrowski after Gov. Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 499, aptly dubbed the Mining for America bill, in December 2017. The bill overturned a two-decade-old moratorium on non-iron ore sulfide mining in the state.
Sen. Petrowski said he shared the concerns of those favoring “solid protections for both the environment and the taxpayer.” Along those lines, the senator supported an attached amendment that would delay the bill’s effective date for a half-year to “give local governments ample time to update their ordinances” and get “prepared for any potential permit applications.” The senator stated he had “been in touch with local government leaders” and had directed the “Wisconsin Counties Association and Wisconsin Towns Association, asking them to create model ordinances for their members.”
Marathon County is set to adopt additional rules regarding prospecting and bulk sampling, the Wasau Daily Herald reported.
The county is one of only a handful with known deposits that could potentially be mined economically. The Reef deposit was first explored in the 1970s by Noranda Exploration. The state puts its reserves at 454,000 tons of gold-bearing ore. Since it acquired a stake on the deposit in 2011, Aquilla Resources reported completing 4,500 meters (m) of core drilling with highlights that include “3 m of 8.12 grams/mt gold; 14.76 m of 14.41 g/mt gold and 0.3% copper, including 9.26 m of 21.28 g/mt gold and 0.33% copper; and 14.54 m of 3.23 g/mt gold, including 3.5 m of 13.05 g/mt gold.”
Aquila Resources reported it supports the rules, which were designed in part with the intention of bolstering “good relationships” between the miner, citizens and businesses. “I was happy to see at the meeting on April 10 of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors that the county is willing to try and find a balance between regulation and economic opportunity for its residents, by unanimously approving an ordinance that ensures mining is conducted in a safe, sound, and responsible manner,” said Chantae Lessard, director, social performance and engagement, Aquila Resources.
In December, shortly after the passage of Assembly Bill 499, Aquila reported it was still “far too early” to know if its Reef property or a property on the polymetallic Bend deposit in Taylor County, Wisconsin, would “develop into mines.” At the time, the company reported it was focusing resources on permitting for a stake on the Back Forty zinc/gold deposit, located partly in Wisconsin but legally under Michigan’s jurisdiction.
Other potentially mineable deposits in Wisconsin include the Crandon deposit, near the city of Crandon, and the Lynne deposit, in Oneida County.