Mining bill clears Assembly committee

MADISON — Northern Wisconsin is one step closer to having an iron mine that could bring with it hundreds of new jobs.

Gogebic Taconite wants to open an iron mine near Ashland.

A bill that lessens mining regulations passed both the Assembly and Senate mining committees Wednesday, but not without opposition.

Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly committees on mining asked similar questions Wednesday.

"I am concerned that this bill still has some really bad things in it for our environment," said State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton.

Concerns Republicans say were addressed through dozens of amendments to the proposed mining regulation.

"The Democrats are trying to raise the specter that the Department of Natural Resources will not adequately work to protect the citizens of Wisconsin and I don't know anybody who actually believes that," said State Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere.

Some Democrats argue the speed at which the bill is moving makes it hard to address all of the environmental concerns the proposed mine near Ashland would bring to the table.

"I think we have already had more questions raised today that call into question if we even know what we are doing, some members of the committee don't even know where the mine is," said State Rep Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh.

The bill still passed through both committees. A step forward for a bill Jacque says will bring economic prosperity to a region of the state in desperate need.

"This is something that certainly in the Fox Valley and Green Bay area you're going to see a lot of support of manufacturing. There is a certainly a lot of support for industries and you have to look at the overall economic impact which is going to be substantial," said Jacque.

The bill now moves on to the Joint Finance Committee for a vote that is expected later this month and will then move on to the full legislature for a vote sometime in March.

If the bill does pass through the legislature and the governor signs it could still be several years before construction on the $1.5 billion mine begins.

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