February 13, 2016

Advocates, opponents testify at mining hearing

Observers and those waiting to testify pack the hearing room at the state Capitol as committee members listen to 12 hours of testimony on a proposed new mining bill (AB-1, SB-1). The measure aims to streamline the process for approving permits for new iron ore mines in Wisconsin.

Jerome “Brooks” Big John is a Lac du Flambeau council member. He says his tribe has environmental concerns about the bill. “The particles from the dynamic have to go somewhere. It’s gonna go in the wetlands. It’s gonna go in the waters of our brothers up here in the Bad River. We are not gonna stand by and let this happen without a fight. We don’t fight with our hands nowadays, or with bows and arrows. We fight with words in court and you’ll be faced with litigation until the day’s end. I can guarantee you that.”

An educator and some students from up north in Hurley testify in favor of the bill. Students express concerns that they won’t be able to return home after leaving to get their education, because there wouldn’t be any jobs for them. “I was born and raised in Hurley, Wisconsin and I would love to be able to stay here. My parents always said it was a great place to raise a family but it’s an awful place for jobs. So I would like to be able to change that.”

Supporters of the bill claim it would help create thousands of direct jobs at the mining site and many more jobs in supporting industries. However, environmental groups are concerned about the land, air, and water; they vow to fight the proposal.

Chuck Matyska (mah-TISS-kah) from Cecil is the president of Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. He’s undecided. “The Federation is definitely not against mining. As we drive our pick-up trucks around and fire our rifles and shotguns we are constantly reminded of the need for iron in our lives. We will be waiting to see the results of the formal scientific studies of the project before taking a position.”

Wednesday’s hearing, which enforced strict rules during the meeting, was likely the only one taking public testimony on legislation that would rewrite Wisconsin’s mining laws.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:47

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