Brave New Highway

Coming soon: The microwavable road?

Zanko further points out that there is no proposal to use tailings from the eastern part of the Iron Range, where the asbestos-like fibers have been identified in taconite. The geology of five pits from the western part of the Range, he says, is markedly different. Examination of the tailings from that region has not revealed any significant levels of asbestos-like fibers.

None of this satisfies Miles Lord. He counters that the MDH taconite dust study was sharply criticized by some scientists for its methodology and conclusions. Additionally, Lord notes, at least one EPA scientist has gone on record stating that the testing of the western range for asbestos has been inadequate.

Beyond any environmental concerns, it remains an open question whether Hopstock and Zanko's dream of microwavable roads will come to fruition. The pair is hoping to receive as much as $1.6 million to fund a three-year research project, but the money has yet to come through. Says Hopstock: "This has all been done on a shoestring, so until we get more funding to do a field test, we won't be able to demonstrate feasibility."

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