Senate rejects mining bill set for northern Wisconsin

CREATED Mar. 6, 2012

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MADISON- Wisconsin's Senate rejected mining legislation Tuesday designed to ease the regulatory path for a large open pit mine in northern Wisconsin.

A key lawmaker is still holding out hope for a deal. 

Republican state Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center said, "My door remains open to coming up with a compromise as long as it doesn't contain an onerous contested case provision and these environmental changes without a thorough robust and transparent discussion that I think all of us need to listen to."

Schultz added, "We cannot deviated from what has been tried, true and tested in this state without substantial discussion by people we should be hearing from."

Sen. Dale Schultz voted with all Democrats to reject the measure.

Labor union members filled the rotunda just before Senators were expected to take up a vote on the mining bill.

President of the Wisconsin Labors District Council John Schmitt said, "We can talk about environmental issues too because my members love to hunt, they love to fish.  Laws that they have out there will take care of that stuff.  What we care about is a jobs bill," said
 
But the League of Conservation Voters argues the proposed mining bill will have serious impacts on the environment, impacts that outweigh job creation.
 
"What's going to the floor is a terrible bill.  It's a bill that rolls back protections for our wetlands and our water," said Ann Sayers of the League of Conservation Voters.

The Senate Monday referred the bill to committee, leaving open the possibility that it could be brought up later if there are indications it'll pass. 

The Legislature is set to adjourn March 15.

The Journal Sentinel reports that mining has received little attention in recent years - there is no large metallic or iron ore mine in operation in Wisconsin today.

But that changed after Gogebic Taconite proposed constructing a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties that would employ 600 to 700 workers.