Editor’s note: The DNR’s letter is about the Bend deposit and not about the Reef deposit. The article has been updated to reflect it. Wausau Pilot & Review regrets the confusion.

Damakant Jayshi

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has again asked Green Light Wisconsin for additional details after the company revised its notice of intent for exploration drilling at the Bend deposit in Taylor County.

“The DNR has reviewed the additional information provided by GLW and determined more information is necessary to complete the review process,” the DNR’s Metallic Mining Coordinator Molly Gardner wrote, in a letter to the mining company, a subsidiary of Canada-based Green Light Metals.

According to the DNR, the Bend Copper-Gold Deposit is located approximately 19 miles north-northwest of the city of 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.

The deposit has significant gold and minor amounts of silver in two overlapping zones, totaling an estimated 4.23 million tons of ore, according to the DNR. The Aquila Resources company conducted the initial exploration drilling operations in 2012. Green Light Wisconsin acquired Aquila in 2021 and purchased the mineral rights for the Bend deposit as well as the Reef deposit in Easton in Marathon County for about $7 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The agency, in a letter made public last week, asked GLW to amend the company’s revised notice of intent and to include details previously requested by the DNR. It then lists items that need to be addressed. The DNR on Nov. 30 received a revised notice of intent from Green Light in response to the agency’s prior request for additional information, sought on Oct. 14.

The latest response from the DNR to the GLW conveys a hint of exasperation on the part of state government officials.

“Please remove all contradictory or conflicting statements,” the Dec. 16 letter says at one point, suggesting the revised response from the company should combine information into one standalone document. In another part of the letter, the DNR points out the company’s name abbreviation changes throughout the document. “Please use the company name associated with the Exploration License.”

Among the issues that the DNR wants addressed is detail about activities near wetlands. No activities near wetlands are permitted. The company wrote in its previously revised NOI that “all the access roads and drill sites traverse and are located on uplands…No activities associated with the Work Plan take place in or proximate to wetlands.” But the DNR pointed out that access to work sites traverse the wetland ditch.

The DNR asked the GLW to clarify whether or not it intends to cut “merchantable timber during the drilling operation.” GLW documents state the company will not cut the timber – at the same time leaving the prospect open.

Another discrepancy relates to top soil. At one point, the company wrote “to the extent possible, no top soil will be disturbed” but on other occasions it writes “no disturbance” and “where top soil is disturbed” in five other paragraphs throughout the document. “The same situation applies to ‘rutting.’ Consistency is crucial,” the DNR wrote.

The DNR also asked the company to remove all processes or activities that won’t be conducted on site. Referring to GLW’s claim about its discretion to undertake work plan activities before and after frozen conditions, the DNR pointed out that “GLW only has authorization to undertake activities within the timeframe outlined of an approved NOI submittal unless approved by the DNR in writing through a new permit or permit amendment.”

Further, the agency sought clarification about the source of water being used for drilling operation  and how the company plans to withdraw water, adding that the nature of withdrawal methods might require another permit.

The DNR letter also asks about pausing the drilling operation during thawing, building a retention wall and access to the drilling site, among other situations.