A state Senate committee charged with reviewing Wisconsin’s mining laws faces a daunting challenge. State Senator Neal Kedzie will chair the Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs. The Elkhorn Republican spelled out the challenge committee members will face once they begin work. “What we hope for is legislation that will allow for a permit to be applied for, for mining purposes, but also making sure that we safeguard the environment at the same time,” said Kedzie. “This is a jobs creation and environmental protection bill wrapped into one.”
Still, Kedzie conceded that it will be “difficult to accommodate everyone’s concerns” over a proposed open-pit iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. “We will definitely make sure that whatever legislation is released from the committee is reasonable, fair and cognizant of protection of our environmental resources, and at the same time giving the ability of applicants for permits to be able to participate in the process, and them let the science and the fact speak for themselves.”
The area where Gogebic Taconite proposed the mine is represented by Democratic state Senator Bob Jauch. In an August interview Jauch, who is also expected serve on the committee, said public input will be critical. “The key is making sure that you can get this done (review the applications) in a reasonable, responsible period of time, in which the public has total access and absolute influence on the ultimate outcome,” said Jauch. The key environmental issue in the proposed mine is the health of the Bad River and its watershed, as well as groundwater. “We have to create the greatest degree of certainty that we will not degrade the water sources,” said Kedzie. “This something that I think the entire committee is committed to insuring.” The key economic issue: the region has some of the highest unemployment in the state.