One of the authors of mining legislation signed by the governor this week believes it will could lead to a revival of the industry in Wisconsin.
The bill signed by Governor Scott Walker on Monday effectively ended Wisconsin’s moratorium on sulfide mining – a process used to remove metals such as gold and copper from the ground. Critics contend the move will be put surface and groundwater supplies at risk,.
While no companies have announced plans yet to pursue a mine, state Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) believes it will not be long before exploratory work begins. He notes there’s not been much of that done in the past few decades, largely because of the moratorium. “I think sometime in the next year we will probably see exploratory companies start to take a look at some deposits,” he predicts.
The deposits most likely to draw attention are in what’s known as the “Greenstone Belt” – which runs along Highway 8 from Ladysmith to the Michigan state line. Tiffany says that region holds the most potential for mining interests, and is one that could benefit the most from the financial boost the industry could bring to the state. “It can turn the fortunes around of these rural northern counties,” he argues.
Some counties heard similar promises just a few years ago, when Gogebic Taconite began looking at an iron ore deposit in Iron and Ashland counties after lawmakers passed a bill to streamline the permitting process for such projects. Gogebic eventually pulled out after doing exploratory work, and the proposed $1.5 billion project evaporated.
Tiffany contends the potential for sulfide mining will be different though, because – unlike the iron mining legislation – the changes have a much broader reach. While he admits it likely won’t happen right away, he argues that a company that locates a viable deposit could apply for a permit within the next three to five years.