Is the future of mining in Wisconsin dead altogether? - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Is the future of mining in Wisconsin dead altogether?


MADISON (WKOW) -- After more than a year of planning, there will ultimately be no iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

Gogebic Taconite, the company that was set to dig the mine, announced on Tuesday night that it has had enough, after the State Senate failed to pass suitable mining legislation.

Republican Party leaders are now saying no mining company will want to come to Wisconsin as long as the legislature is unwilling to loosen environmental regulations.

A new mining law would have been a signature piece of legislation for both Governor Walker and this current Legislature.

That is why most Republicans are more than frustrated.

"What else could you do to the bill to get enough votes?  And I just don't know what that is right now," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

That resulted in Gogebic Taconite pulling up stakes in northern Wisconsin, after spending more than $3 million during a year of prep work for the mine.

"People aren't gonna invest anywhere, if there's no light at the end of the tunnel," said Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams.

But Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), the only Republican to vote against the bill, told 27 News there are bigger issues than what Gogebic Taconite wants.

"What we were doing was passing a new mining law in Wisconsin for more than just one company.  And I think that often times gets lost in that debate," said Sen. Schultz.

Sen. Schultz understands that people want jobs, but said there is no reason there can't be mining jobs in the future with a company that is more agreeable to Wisconsin's environmental standards.

Conservation groups agreed.

"You often hear from people who live near the mine how much they would love to have a mining operation that provides jobs, but not at the expense of their drinking water, not at the expense of their trout streams," said Kerry Schumann, Executive Director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

But, Bill Williams called that naive.

"There's gonna be impacts any way you do it.  You walk through the woods, you're gonna crush a flower, you're gonna crush some glass.  That's gonna be an impact," said Williams.

In the end, Sen. Fitzgerald believes the opposition to the mine was never about the environment at all, but about stopping the Governor's agenda in any way possible.

"Absolutely politics over job creation, I don't think there's any doubt about it," said Sen. Fitzgerald.

With the company leaving, Sen. Fitzgerald said there is no point to tweak the current mining legislation to try and get it passed before the session ends next week.

This time, it is dead for good.

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