DNR licenses Oneida Co. mineral drilling exploration; forthcoming ordinance could increase environmental protectionsSubmitted: 02/12/2020
Story By Stephen Goin

DNR licenses Oneida Co. mineral drilling exploration; forthcoming ordinance could increase environmental protections
ONEIDA COUNTY - A Michigan company's plan to drill for precious metals in Oneida County could soon become a reality.

In January, Menominee-based Badger Minerals sent a Notice of Intent to Drill to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In the same month, the company also sent a mineral exploration license application to the DNR.

In a letter dated Feb. 10, the DNR issued the license requested. 

In the January notice, the company detailed its plans to drill 10 holes totaling a maximum of 4,000 square feet in the Town of Schoepke. The company claims it wants to evaluate the "mineral potential within the project area."

The notice goes on to say drilling would target potential base and precious metals mineralization. The company estimates those minerals are covered by 10 to 70 inches of "unconsolidated glacial deposits" referred to as overburden.

According to Badger Minerals, drilling is planned on parcels of land privately-owned by Badger Minerals or the Heartwood Forestland Group. The company said it has entered into a Purchase Agreement with Heartwood and has been given permission to access and conduct exploration activities on its property.

The drilling sites are located near the Wolf River and Stockley Creek; water from those bodies would be used in the drilling process. 

Oneida County Supervisor Bob Mott represents District 7 which includes Schoepke. When Mott heard of the Badger Minerals project he said it gave him flashbacks to the proposed mining plan in the Town of Lynne two years ago. 

"Oh my gosh, here we go again. And that was on county forest land, this is on private land which is going to be a different situation," said Mott. 

In Nov. 2018, 62% of people in Oneida County voted against mining on county forest land in Lynne. In Oct. 2019, the county board voted down a resolution that would have disallowed mining on all county forest land. Mott was among the dissenters. 

"I voted against that restriction county-wide because that wasn't what [the referendum] talked about. If it was talking about Lynne in particular I would have voted for it."

Now, Mott said he plans to put forward an ordinance to increase environmental protections in the Schopke-area although the Badger Minerals project is on private land.

"To make sure that one it's done properly so the environment isn't harmed and two that the citizens of the area aren't harmed by the process itself," said Mott.

That ordinance could be presented as early as March and Mott said similar measures have been adopted in Minocqua and Hazelhurst. 

"It goes a long way to talking about how that overburden is handled, it talks about roads and the impact on roads, talks about air and water quality, talks about noise and hours of operation, that type of thing," said Mott. "Of course we're a long way from that and the exploratory phase won't have any of those concerns."

Badger Minerals does have plans in place for reclamation but the DNR said additional permits and approvals may be necessary to protect the project area. 

According to Badger Minerals, a similar exploration was conducted in the 1970s where 30 holes were drilled.  

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