Lawmakers Propose Repealing Metallic Mineral Mining Ban

Two Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill to lift Wisconsin’s longstanding moratorium on metallic mineral mining. The bill by State Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Rob Hutton repeals the existing prohibition on issuing sulfide ore mining permits. Current law prohibits the DNR from issuing any permits for the purpose of mining a sulfide ore body until DNR determines that 1) there is a mining operation in a potentially acid-generating sulfide ore body in the United States or Canada that has been in operation for at least ten years without resulting in the pollution of groundwater or surface water from acid drainage or from the release of heavy metals; and 2) that there is such  a mining operation  that has been closed for at least ten years without resulting in thesame type of pollution.

The Flambeau mine in Ladysmith had an exemplary environmental record,  but was only actively mined from 1991 to 1997. In a letter to Media Trackers and other media outlets, Ladysmith City Administrator Al Christanson said the moratorium was intentionally designed to exclude the Flambeau mine from being cited as an example of a mine that operated successfully in Wisconsin:

Wisconsin’s moratorium cleverly, but unfairly, created an artificial standard(period in operation) that does not allow for the Flambeau Mine at Ladysmith to be cited as an example of a mine that had operated successfully in our state. Although successful and environmentally sound, the Flambeau Mine played out in five years rather than the required ten.

 

I was new in this role when Flambeau Mining sought to permit the mine in the late 1980s. Since a part of the Flambeau Mine was located within the city limits, I have been involved with it from its inception through its construction, actual mining, reclamation, issuance of the completion certificate, and now post closure.

 

It is time to quit judging mining by how it was done a century or even decades ago. Please consider it in the context of state of the art mining technology. Other industries aren’t judged this way. They are judged by how they operate today in a world where advances in technology and safety are made daily. It is also time to lift the moratorium and let the people of northern Wisconsin decide whether they want to host mining as they were able to for most of our history. Remember why we were known as The Badger State.

Christanson says perceptions that the mine created problems in Ladsymith are false. he claims “Individuals spent a considerable amount of time and money to prove that some runoff from a parking lot at an office building picked up trace amounts of mineral:”

Don’t take my word for any of this though. When you are traveling in the Ladysmith area, stop by one of the local gas stations or restaurants. Fill your tank and get a bite to eat. Stop at a shop. We’ll be glad to have you. Ask the gas station attendant, your waitress or the ubiquitous “man on the street” about the Flambeau Mine. Ask them what they know about it. Probably very little if anything, which is a good thing.

 

If there were a problem they certainly would know. Ask the local fishing guide who says the best fishing in the area is along the stretch of the Flambeau that passes by the former mine site. Then ask these folks what the Flambeau Mine did for the community. They may tell you about the beautiful library that mine dollars paid most of the cost of, or the nice playground at the local elementary school. They may tell you about the hundreds of jobs that were added in the local economy as a result of investment of mining revenues into other business ventures. I believe a large majority of local citizens will tell you they would welcome with open arms consideration of another mine in this area.

This bill also creates a timeline for DNR to review an application for a prospecting or mining permit, request additional information from the applicant, and prepare a draft environmental impact statement, a draft prospecting or mining permit, and other draft approvals.

Under the bill, DNR has 180 days after an applicant submits an application for a prospecting or mining permit, an environmental impact report, and any application for other related approvals, licenses, or permits, to provide comments and request additional information.  If DNR requests additional information, it has 90 days after the applicant submits additional information to again provide comments and request additional information.  If DNR requests this additional information, it has 180 days after the applicant submits additional information to prepare a draft environmental impact statement, a draft prospecting or mining permit, and any other related draft approvals, licenses, or permits.  The applicant and DNR may agree to modify all or part of this timeline.  DNR may request additional information after these time periods expire, but may not delay the application and review process based on a request for additional information.