February 8, 2016

Hundreds speak up about mining

About 200 people gather up north to talk about mining legislation.

Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) listened to Wisconsin residents for a good chunk of the day during a listening session organized by Democrats. He said his only regret is that all of his colleagues in the legislature weren’t in Ashland Saturday to hear the heartfelt comments about proposed mining legislation that would streamline Wisconsin’s current iron mining regulations.

AUDIO: Senator Tim Cullen :25

The majority of those speaking their minds were against having Florida-based Gogebic Taconite dig a giant hole in their back yard due to environmental concerns, but some folks support the idea in hopes of bringing more much-needed jobs to the area.

One speaker noted the miner on Wisconsin’s state flag. He said if mining companies aren’t allowed dig an open pit in our state, “Let’s take that miner off the state flag.”

Another man called it a “bait and switch” tactic, saying the hundreds of jobs Republicans are promising likely won’t go to workers already living up north in need of employment. “Do you really think that those companies are going to trust these enormously expensive pieces of equipment to Joe the truck driver?”

Bayfield Mayor Larry McDonald told the crowd he’s opposed to the bills due to his concerns about potential damage to Lake Superior. “Do no harm to Lake Superior,” he said, “If we take that as a starting point, we all win.” McDonald said 10 percent of the world’s fresh surface water is in Lake Superior. “We can’t screw it up. We get one chance in this life for this.”

Republican bills were approved last week in Assembly and Senate legislative committees after having had just one public hearing on the bills (AB 1, SB 1). Gogebic Taconite had taken its offer off the table last spring after legislation to relax mining regulations got voted down, but the company is reconsidering digging a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron Counties.

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