Jobs, environment mining showdown at the Capitol
MILWAUKEE - Scott Fredrick leads Phoenix Products Company, an industrial lighting company in Milwaukee. His company stands to win business if a proposed iron mine is built in Northern Wisconsin.
"We would certainly keep our current staff busy and we would likely have to add some for some period of time," Fredrick told TODAY'S TMJ4 reporter Tom Murray.
There was a packed hearing in Madison on Wednesday with long lines to testify. Mining company leaders told lawmakers they are anxious to start.
"Move forward as quickly as the law allows," said Bob Seitz of Arrowhead Strategies.
Gogebic Taconite says the equipment would almost certainly be built by Caterpiller in South Milwaukee… or Joy Global near Miller Park.
"Very likely would be both," said Gogebic Taconite CEO Bill Williams. "They both do drills. They both do shovels."
Nancy Milholland drove from Racine to voice her support.
"We need these jobs," Milholland said. "Seven hundred jobs directly involved with the mine. Thousands after to support it."
Many Democrats disagree with the current measure. They demand tighter regulations and promises that mining jobs would go to Wisconsin residents.
"Any of these mining techniques will significantly harm the environment," said Madison resident Hallis Mailen.
Opponents are worried the huge open-pit mine will spoil pristine Northwoods near Lake Superior. They fear there is not enough in the bill about how a mining company would prevent heavy metals like mercury and arsenic from getting into the ground water.
"It seems like we have no specific information about the degree of environmental hazard that may exist," said Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo).
Leaders from Caterpillar and Joy Global did not testify. Caterpillar provided a statement to TODAY'S TMJ4 saying the company supports the mining legislation.