Home / News / DNR gives conditional approval to Green Light Wisconsin to drill at Taylor County mine

DNR gives conditional approval to Green Light Wisconsin to drill at Taylor County mine

Sep 11, 2023Sep 11, 2023

Damakant Jayshi

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gave a conditional approval to Green Light Wisconsin to conduct exploratory drilling for gold and copper at the Bend Copper-Gold Deposit in Taylor County.

Meanwhile, the company's proposed exploratory drilling at the Reef deposit near Wausau appears to be stalled.

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The mining company, a subsidiary of Canada-based Green Light Metals, can drill up to eight borings at the Bend deposit totaling up to 7,190 feet from six drill sites "in the spring/summer of 2023 and/or winter of 2023/24," according to the approval letter issued by the DNR's Metallic Mining Coordinator Molly Gardner on May 4, 2023. The company had submitted additional information sought by the Wisconsin agency on its Notice of Intent to drill on April 14.

The Department of Natural Resources also asked the company to submit an updated surety bond of $50,000.

In its April 14, 2023 letter to the DNR providing additional information on its notice of intent, the GLW proposed to draw water for drilling fluid from "the North Branch of the Yellow River at the bridge located on the Yellow River Road north of the project area." The DNR, in December last year, had asked for additional information from the company.

In its drilling approval letter, the DNR determined that permit for withdrawal of water from the river was not required but said "the withdrawal will not involve removal of bed material or the placement of a structure on the bed." The state agency also said that the mining company cannot discharge dewatering activities directly to wetlands or waterways "at no time."

The DNR has made it clear that the conditional approval, valid until June 30, 2024, is neither a wetland nor a waterway permit because neither was required "since there are no navigable streams within the project area," Gardner told Wausau Pilot & Review.

"The 2 delineated wetlands within the project area will either be avoided or bridged to avoid impact," Gardner said.

When asked how the company planned to avoid impact on the two delineated wetlands within the project site, the company, through its communications firm provided the following statement that stopped short of answering the specific question.

"With demand for clean energy minerals increasing by the day – both to supply our renewable energy sector and to decrease our nation's reliance on foreign imports – as a mineral exploration company, GreenLight Metals continues to explore opportunities within the Reef and Bend deposits to safely and responsibly locate such resources to meet this growing need," Dan Colton, President & CEO of Green Light Metals said.

"Exploratory work of this kind takes time and our company is committed to satisfying necessary regulatory requirements before drilling," he added. "Through these efforts, GreenLight continues to engage with a variety of constituencies, including the state Department of Natural Resources to ensure that this work can move forward in a responsible way.

"We are optimistic that exploratory drilling may commence within calendar year 2023, contingent on both regulatory approvals and challenges presented by today's supply chain."

The Bend Copper-Gold Deposit is approximately 19 miles northwest of the City Medford in Taylor County, within the Chequamegon National Forest. The deposit was originally discovered in 1986 and drilled in the early 1990s by the Jump River Joint Venture. According to the DNR, the deposit is mostly copper bearing sulfides with significant gold and minor amounts of silver in two overlapping zones, totaling an estimated 4.23 million tons of ore.

Meanwhile, Green Light Wisconsin's intent to begin exploratory drilling for gold at the Reef deposit in Easton in Marathon County appears to be stalled.

The DNR had asked for additional information on the drilling plan at the proposed site on Oct. 28, 2022 after the company submitted its Notice of Intent to drill earlier that month.

"GLW has not responded to DNR's October 28, 2022 request for additional information on the Reef deposit," DNR's Metallic Mining Coordinator Gardner told this newspaper.

The company has not provided any specific reasons for the delay except providing the aforementioned statement.

Some residents oppose the exploratory project at the Reef deposit, saying the proposed drilling will contaminate the groundwater, wells and steams in the area. Ho-Chunk Nation, one of 11 federally recognized Native American tribes in Wisconsin, has also opposed the drilling proposal and requested Marathon County not issue the drilling permit and "any future efforts to engage in gold mining near the Dells of the Eau Claire River in Marathon County."

Some residents expressed the concern that drill fluids contain forever chemicals called PFAS, which have been found in wells in Wausau and surrounding areas. Green Light says the fears over contamination are unfounded.

According to Marathon County's Department of Conservation, Planning and Zoning, the Easton Reef Deposit is "estimated to contain approximately 120,000 ounces of gold." The company has proposed nine drilling areas across three private parcels.

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