Credibility of Profs Referenced by Wis. DNR Questionable

MILWAUKEE – Two professors whose work has been relied on by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in their review of iron mining in the state of Wisconsin have serious credibility problems. In their own way, both professors have had their work regarding mining issues rebutted by academics and geology experts.

Professor Tom Fitz of Northland College claimed in October of 2013 that he found grunerite at the site of a proposed iron mine in the Penokee Hills. On Tuesday, Media Trackers discovered that University of Minnesota Duluth scientist Bryan Bandli of the Scanned Electron Microscopy Laboratory reviewed the alleged grunerite sample at the request of Fitz and found that the rock was, in fact, not grunerite.

“The discovery spells trouble for the DNR’s report on iron mining because the agency used Fitz as a co-author of its report on iron mining,” said Brian Sikma, communications director for Media Trackers.

Professor Marcia Bjornerud of Lawrence University produced a report in 2012 claiming the geological formations of the Gogebic Range do not support the development of a taconite mine. Bjornerud’s report was referenced and cited by the DNR’s iron mining report. But in 2007, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality commissioned a report that subsequently concluded Bjornerud drew the wrong conclusions about a mining project in the Upper Peninsula.

“State regulators in Michigan concluded that Bjornerud drew the wrong conclusions and likely did not have enough expertise and experience to make certain conclusions about mining projects,” remarked Sikma. “That means the Wisconsin DNR needs to figure out why it used Bjornerud’s research in assembling its own report.”