February 9, 2016

Mining panel gets input

How to advance “responsible mining” in Wisconsin? Dr. Thomas Evans with the Wisconsin Geological Society provided the Senate Committee on Mining with an overview of current state mining law – and some suggestions as well. For example, the addition of “off ramps” to the lengthy permitting process. “We’re seeing evidence that there are times when we need a resolution to a question, so that people can make decisions, and move on or move out,” Evans said.

The Democrat-led mining committee will hold a series of hearings on mining this fall, for informational purposes only. It’s expected that new mining legislation will be offered during the next session of the legislature, after the November elections. Legislation aimed at rewriting Wisconsin’s existing mining regulations foundered in the state Senate during the previous legislative session. Proponents argued that changes were needed, in order to streamline the permitting process, while critics argued the bill had been specifically written at the behest of a company with an interest in mining iron in the environmentally sensitive Penokee Range of northern Wisconsin. 

Evans told committee members that decisions on whether or not issue permits for mining in Wisconsin need to be based on findings of fact, and the law – and with the understanding that “responsible mining” ought to be allowed. “The thing that you want to do is get it right. But there’s nothing that says getting it right means you never get it, you never get there. You have to be able, at some point, to get there. You have to go back to the philosophy that responsible mining is okay,” he said. “The issue is, what is responsible mining? That’s a technical question. It’s not an emotional question.”

Evans pointed out that demand for minerals such as the iron in northern Wisconsin will continue to increase. “We can change by doing more recycling, we can change by substitution (and) how much each and every one of us uses,” he explained. “But there just more of us all time, and we have standards of living that are growing around the world, all the time.”

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