Ladysmith (WQOW) - A proposal introduced by some Wisconsin lawmakers would make it easier for metal mining companies to set up shop in Wisconsin, but not everyone is on board, questioning environmental concerns at a public listening session Thursday.
"We want to put the miner that is on the flag of the State of Wisconsin back to work," State Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) said. "It's been almost 20 years since we've had an operating mine here in Wisconsin."
The Flambeau Mine site looks quite a bit different today than it did 20 years ago when it served as a hot spot for gold, silver and copper; that was the last time a mine of its kind was operating in Wisconsin.
In 1998, one year after Rusk County's closed up shop, laws were put in place limiting mining in the state. Now, some state lawmakers, including local leaders Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) and Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) want to see mines become part of the landscape again.
"I don't think it is a coincidence that the development of Foxconn there will be the need for precious metals and minerals from various areas around the world, and yet those exist right here in northern Wisconsin," State Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) said. "Why not be our own supplier for what may be our largest manufacturer will need going forward."
Not everyone is on board with the plan, like Lawrence Mann, who is concerned about drinking water in the Badger State.
"You can see the destruction, of what these mines are doing to our country," Mann said. "You know, they want to say this is safe? Let's go get a glass of water from there. Let's bring it in here and see if any of these guys will drink it. I don't think so."
And, he's not alone.
"We have 21 percent of the world's fresh water in our Great Lakes system right now," said Jeffrey Budish, of Peshtigo. "How can we subject millions of people to this type of devastation?"
Others said regulations are strict enough, and mines would make a positive impact on the state's economy.
"Well, I think the important thing to recognize is that the bill does not change any water quality standards, air quality standards, groundwater, surface water standards or anything like that," said Stephen Donohue, with Foth Infrastructure and Environment.
Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also spoke at Thursday's hearing with some of the concerns they have with mining in the state. Meanwhile, a representative from Michigan spoke in favor of the proposal.
Thursday's meeting lasted several hours with over 100 people in attendance speaking on both sides. It was a listening session, and no action will be taken at this time.