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Senators Suggest "Safety Zones" for Mine Testing Site

State Senators Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch and Dale Schultz say they're designing a safety plan for Wisconsin's Northwoods - to protect both Gogebic Taconite employees and people recreating.

There have been a few confrontations in the Penokee Hills, since the company began drilling for rock samples. Gogebic Taconite wants to create an open pit mine to extract iron ore. Some opponents of a mine have set up camp in the area, a few have hassled workers, while other people have traveled to the site, simply to view it.

The company has hinted it might close a large swath of land to the public, to protect its employees and investments. The senators  say the state should instead, create "safety zones" around company operations, so tourists would know where they could continue hunting, fishing and hiking.

Much of the land in question is so-called managed forest land. Parts can be closed to the public for a limited time, but outdoor enthusiasts have used it for decades.

According to the senators, they solicited input from local leaders, state agencies and representatives of the company and meshed the concerns of all.

While the legislation would set zones into which people could not enter, state or federal agencies could expand the boundaries if necessary, such as, if the operation will use explosives.

The senators say their rules would be similar to those now in place for logging operations in Wisconsin.