Bill to lift mining moratorium gets second and final public hear - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Bill to lift mining moratorium gets second and final public hearing


MADISON (WKOW) -- A bill designed to lift Wisconsin's 20-year sulfide mining moratorium continues to move through the state legislature, with the Assembly Committee on Labor holding the second and final public hearing on the legislation Friday.

Wisconsin enacted a law in 1998 that forces mining companies to prove they can operate a mine for ten years, and then have it closed for ten years without producing groundwater or surface water contamination from acid drainage.

That law came out of bipartisan legislation, after it was determined some contamination resulted from the Flambeau Mine, which was operational in Ladysmith from 1993 to 1997.

The authors of the current legislation say that "prove it first" law has proved to be too burdensome for mining companies, and is stunting economic growth in the northern part of the state.

"I believe we do have some ethical duty to produce some of those raw materials, those minerals right here in the United States and in Wisconsin, to produce those things we use in our everyday lives," said Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), at a news conference prior to Friday's hearing.

Republicans believe mining will help create hundreds of jobs in the state.

Democrats on the committee pointed out no such jobs came out of a 2013 bill that was written so Gogebic Taconite could open an open pit iron ore mine near Hurley.

That company left the state amid delays caused by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.

"This bill, I believe, is essentially written for a new company, Aquila Resources, and I'm not sure whether or not there is gonna be any additional jobs that result of that," said Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha).

Aquila Resources is a Canadian company that has opened mines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The Assembly Committee on Labor is expected to pass the bill.

It has already passed a Senate committee, as Republicans hope to get it to Governor Walker's desk this fall.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Environmentalists and tribal officials are urging Wisconsin Republicans to drop a bill that would lift the state's nearly 20-year-old moratorium on sulfide mining.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, Wisconsin Trout Unlimited and Menominee Nation Chairman Gary Besaw held a news conference in the state Capitol ahead of a hearing on the bill Friday before the Assembly labor committee.

League spokesman Ryan Billingham said lifting the moratorium would lead to pollution. Besaw said the bill will ruin the state for generations.

The bill's chief sponsors, Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Rob Hutton, held their own news conference ahead of the hearing, saying lifting the moratorium would attract mining companies to northern Wisconsin and jump-start the region's economy.

The Senate Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry Committee approved the bill last week.

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