A bill is being discussed in Wisconsin legislature that would pave the way for new mining operations. Environmental activists oppose the bill.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Rob Hutton of Hazelhurst and Brookfield, respectively. If passed, it would remove a 20 year old moratorium on sulfide mining.
Amber Meyer Smith, Director of Programs and Government Relations for Clean Wisconsin, has been reviewing the bill with her team and said that Clean Wisconsin opposes the bill.
“We think that it is creating a bad precedent for companies coming in. Needing to relax environmental laws in order to come here is a bad deal for Wisconsinites,” Smith said.
The current moratorium requires that companies who wish to have a mining operation in Wisconsin be able to demonstrate that they had previously operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years without showing symptoms of pollution.
To demonstrate the dangers of mining, Smith referred to a 2011 report by the Environmental Protection Agency which reviewed toxic releases throughout the nation. It was reported that metal mining produced 41 percent of all the nation’s toxic material.
In addition, Smith said that sulfide mining was linked to six of the World Health Organization’s top 10 list of public concerns.
“This all points to the need for very strong laws on sulfide mining and instead what this bill seems to do is weaken those laws,” Smith said.
In an Aug. 17 press release, Tiffany said, “People want to make things in America again. Our neighbors, Minnesota and Michigan, have placed their shovels in the dirt of America’s future. It is Wisconsin’s turn to do the same.”
Political science professor at the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point, Ed Miller, said the political climate in Wisconsin was ripe for legislation which values economic growth over environmental policy.
“You always balance environment and economic growth,” Miller said, “The balance is going in the direction of economic development, rather than environment.”
Miller said legislation of this nature was part of a larger trend and pointed out budget cuts in the Department of Natural Resources and UWSP’s natural resources programming, as well as the current Foxxcon deal to demonstrate his point.