MADISON (WKOW) -- State legislators are not giving up on bringing mining back to Wisconsin.
The Senate Mining Committee held its first of three hearings Tuesday, to figure out how to pass legislation that benefits both the economy and the environment.
In March, a Republican bill to establish an iron ore mine near Ashland died in the Senate due to environmental concerns.
But many Senators who voted against that bill still want to pass what they call "responsible
legislation" to attract mining companies in the future.
The Committee heard over and over again that the biggest impediment to mining in Wisconsin is the amount of time it takes companies to get a permit.
"A comment that was made to me by a mining company person was that, 'you get to the point where it doesn't end, it just continues to go on,'" Dr. Tom Evans of the Wisconsin Geological Survey told committee members.
Dr. Evans was quick to point out that just the survey work companies must do to submit a mining application can cost millions of dollars.
Gogebic Taconite spent over $3 million in northern Wisconsin for a mine they never got to open.
"They want to know that the time they put in on it, they're going to get back out," explained Dr. Evans. "And so, I always got the feeling that in the experience with G-Tac last year, that there was a feeling that anything collected prior to the notice of intent wasn't going to be accepted and I think that's a wrong interpretation of the law."
But, Dr. Evans said that doesn't mean the state needs to lower its environmental standards and cave to a company's demands.
He suggests changing the law, so that an independent administrative law judge can be assigned to each mining application.
That person's sole purpose would be to streamline the process, by resolving disputes in a more timely manner.
"Somebody who's not necessarily governed by the politics of the day, or their perspective about the environment or the concern about jobs alone, but somebody who's thinking about all of that," said Dr. Evans.
The Senate Mining Committee will hold two more hearings to allow people from labor and environmental groups to give testimony as well.
MADISON (WKOW) -- Mining is once again on the table at the State Capitol.
Tuesday, a new Senate committee will meet to discuss potential changes to Wisconsin mining laws.
Members of the business community, regulatory agencies and environmental organizations will also be a part of the discussion.
This is the first meeting on mining since early March of 2012, when the Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed Gogebic Taconite to establish an iron ore mine in far northern Wisconsin.
That bill failed 17-16, after Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) joined Democrats to oppose the measure, saying it went too far in weakening Wisconsin's environmental laws.
Sen. Schultz is on the new committee, which is chaired by Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville).
Both have expressed support for a new mining bill to be introduced when the full legislature goes back into session in January of 2013.
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