Citizens are concerned about the planned sulfuric acid exploration drilling and mining at the Wausau-Reef Deposit
Water is one of the most important things in our lives. Plans were recently announced to commence a sulfuric acid mineral exploration drilling project to evaluate if an open-pit gold mine will be constructed. Citizens from the region are very concerned that groundwater will be placed in jeopardy of contamination. Without access to clean drinking water many aspects of everyday life will become burdensome and unhealthy.
The first step in the process of this sulfuric acid mineral mining development is exploration drilling. Between 100 and 125 boreholes are estimated to be required to begin evaluation. During the drilling process, toxic chemicals are emitted from the drill bit into the groundwater as it passes through the water aquifer. The Wisconsin DNR has an approved list of over 200 chemicals that the mining company can choose from to lubricate the drill tooling. These chemicals are the same products designed for use in the Oil & Gas Exploration Industry. Chemicals on the DNR’s list have not been tested to confirm the accurate content of toxic compounds – particularly the presence or absence of PFAS forever chemicals. Without pretesting prior to use, the DNR lacks the evidence to confirm the use of these chemicals is not a source of PFAS contamination to groundwater. Pretesting of the drilling fluids to confirm they lack toxic compounds and PFAS would instill confidence in the public that this phase of mining development is being done to ensure groundwater safety.
After completion of exploratory drilling there is a borehole filling procedure required by the DNR. The procedure is intended to isolate groundwater from chemicals used during drilling that were combined with sulfuric acid when the target rock formations were penetrated with the drill. The use of a conductor pipe long enough to reach the bottom of the borehole is specified in State Rules. The conductor pipe is injected with wet concrete from the surface and the pipe is continually lifted up and out of the borehole. This technique is required to fill the hole from the bottom upward while being submerged in the water aquifer. A continuous column of concrete is anticipated to harden so as to seal off the chemicals and acid from groundwater contamination.
Should the exploration drilling discover enough potential in the mining company’s opinion to develop the project into a fully operational open-pit sulfuric acid gold mine, there would be other concerns of groundwater quality and environmental impacts that would need to be addressed.
The public has many questions that County & State Officials and the mining company will need to supply satisfactory answers for prior to the public’s agreement that the project can be completed without harming groundwater, the environment, and community value. There should be no assumption that the citizens of the region are willing to live in a sacrificial zone whereby they surrender their access to clean drinkable water, their enjoyment of the natural environment, or any aspect of their personal value or cultural heritage. ~RJ