Events are moving quickly to open a strip mine in northern Wisconsin’s Iron and Ashland counties. The Gogebic Taconite company is working hard to push its mining agenda forward, with a second attempt to rewrite the state’s mining laws expected to come soon from the governor’s office.
GTac officials began by leading us to believe they would follow Wisconsin’s mining regulations and laws. Their proposal to strip mine in the Bad River watershed raised concerns and questions as to how they would protect this pristine watershed. These issues were not addressed. Instead GTac responded by trying to rewrite Wisconsin’s mining laws (see savethewatersedge.com for more information) and investing dollars to convince us that these rewrites constituted a “jobs for generations” bill. Rather than call this a strip mine, it was deemed a “multigenerational mine.”
As the details of this bill began to leak out, legislators became nervous and the bill was tossed in the dustbin.
GTac officials reacted by announcing they are holding off on the $1.5 billion project and won’t continue exploration until the mining laws are changed to their specifications, which would allow mining companies unlimited access to water and freedom to place mining wastes dangerously close to streams and wetlands. This is too much to bear.
Wisconsin is not for sale. While GTac attempts to portray this as a “jobs for generations” mine, the jobs will be temporary. The destruction to the area would be permanent. And it has yet to be shown how many workers in other fields would be displaced by the mine.
We can expect additional slogans while water quality is ignored. GTac is becoming its own worst enemy as concerns for protecting the Bad River watershed from runoff, chemicals, dust, and debris produced by open pit mining are continually ignored.
In the meantime we are offered an audacious suggestion to create a bipartisan committee to facilitate a public discussion about how mining permits should be reviewed. The issue is not how permits should be reviewed; the issue is dismantling the current laws to give mining companies an open door to plunder Wisconsin’s resources. This appears to be another attempt to sanitize the debate and legitimize efforts to rewrite mining laws to meet the needs of the industry.
As we await the new legislation from a governor who wants Wisconsin to be open for business, we should think about the need for laws that provide both sensible governance and prosperity for the future. To accomplish that, we urge the Legislature to consider adopting the Seventh Generation Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to use and enjoy air, water, wildlife and other renewable resources determined by the Congress to be common property shall not be impaired, nor shall such use impair their availability for the use of future generations.”