April 18, 2014

Cautious optimism on mining

Recent mining meetings have led to some guarded optimism for the future. Stephen Donahue with the Wisconsin Mining Association said the metallic mining industry is looking for changes in Wisconsin’s existing mine permitting process. Will that happen? “I’m not a politician, and we live in pretty interesting times, but I’d like to think that our political process still works, and that we can reach some consensus on making some changes to our law, that would allow investment, development and environmental protection,” he said.

State Senator Tim Cullen, the Janesville Democrat who’s chaired a series of informational hearings on state mining law, also admits to some optimism. “I believe if we had a bill that represented the consensus of the testimony that we’ve heard at these hearings, that bill could pass, and probably should pass,” Cullen said.

Donahue said the industry is looking for clearer definitions of the mining permit review process, and the removal from state law of what he termed “unnecessary provisions such as the mining moratorium, that do not add any environmental protection into the permitting process.”

“I think what we’re doing is a terrific educational process . . . that didn’t occur before,” said Cullen. “What I’m hearing from all these people who are testifying is, there’s a reasonable way to change Wisconsin’s mining laws, and not to the detriment of the environment.”

Environmental groups, however, are more raise cautions on metallic mining in Wisconsin. “When looking at mining regulations, I think it’s important to start by acknowledging that mining by its very nature poses high risk to the surrounding natural areas,” said Jennifer Giegerich with the League of Conservation Voters. “And by that, we’re talking about people as well as the sites were those mines are located.