Group encourages increased transparency and public input in process

MADISON  — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced the formation of a Senate select committee for reviewing mining legislation today, four months after a draft iron mining bill was scrapped due to public outcry regarding the secretive nature of the process.

“The draft mining bill circulated this spring met a quick fate because it was written behind closed doors,” said Amber Meyer Smith, director of government relations at Clean Wisconsin. “As legislators examine the future for mining in our state, the public must have a voice. We’re encouraged by the formation of this committee and expect that it will provide many opportunities for public involvement and bring transparency to the process.”

The draft bill released this spring was written by attorneys and lobbyists for the mining industry and included language that would have fast-tracked mining proposals, limited public input and provided for an unprecedented elimination of environmental protections.

“The immense public outcry that followed the release of the draft mining bill this spring shows that Wisconsin residents will not tolerate new mining laws that roll back environmental protections,” said Smith. “We expect that this committee will thoroughly study mining’s impact on natural resources and our economy by bringing in unbiased experts to discuss mining issues. Relying on numbers and data generated by an industry that stands to profit from lax environmental and public health laws is simply insufficient.”

The Legislature is exploring rewriting Wisconsin’s mining laws as Gogebic Taconite, a subsidiary of a West Virginia-based mining corporation called the Cline Group, proposes to build a massive open-pit iron mine near Ashland, Wisconsin. The corporation has leased the mineral rights to 22,000 acres in the Penokee Range, at the headwaters of the pristine Bad River. It has been lobbying in recent months for legislation to change Wisconsin’s existing mining laws that protect the environment and public health.

Just yesterday, members of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, who live downstream from the proposed project, released 10 principles that any new mining legislation should include. The first principle proposes that the definition of iron mining should exclude any project proposal that has the potential to cause acid mine drainage.

“Wisconsin’s mining laws have always been and should continue to be written by Wisconsin residents, not by and for out-of-state mining interests,” said Smith. “The 10 principles released yesterday are based in sound scientific and legal principles, and we hope the committee will weigh them heavily as they consider changing Wisconsin’s mining laws.”