Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Wisconsin governor promises to sign bill to lift ban on sulfide mining

The Menominee River watershed
(Wikipedia map)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plans to sign a bill lifting the state's nearly 20-year ban on gold and silver mining, which he helped enact when he was a legislator. The bill could ease the way for sulfide mining in the same mineral-rich area as the proposed Back Forty Project just over the border in Michigan. The area is right along the Menominee River, so opponents worry that the toxic sludge from the mining will pollute the river.

"Lawmakers passed statutes in 1998 that require sulfide mining applicants to show a similar mine has operated in North American for 10 years without polluting and a similar mine has been closed for 10 years without polluting. State environmental officials have never made a final determination that any applicants ever met those standards," The Associated Press reports.

"Wisconsin is the only state with such a restriction, which has kept mining companies out of the state since Rio Tinto Kennecott closed the Flambeau mine in Ladysmith in 1997 after four years of mining copper, gold and silver," Jason Stein reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Supporters of the bill argue it allows conversations about mining to occur that cannot happen under current law. Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, who authored the bill with Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, emphasized that companies that want to mine in Wisconsin will have to work with local communities in order to do so," Jessie Opoien reports for The Capital Times.

"Opponents of the new legislation are concerned with the removal of the so-called "prove it first" requirement," Opoien reports. "If a sulfide mine could operate safely, argued Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, the existing law wouldn't have prevented it from operating in Wisconsin."

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