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Dem lawmaker says panel will offer new mining bill


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The chair of the Wisconsin Senate’s mining committee says his panel will offer a new bill in the next session on the process for issuing state permits.

But Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen says the panel will first have to cut through what he called “misinformation” during the Legislature’s debate on the mining issue earlier this year.

The committee recently held public hearings on what should be included in a new package. Cullen said mining experts cleared up misconceptions that were raised just before the Senate killed a package sought by Gogebic Taconite – which ended up scrapping plans for an iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties.

Cullen told the Janesville Gazette that the recent hearings hammered home two main points for him.

First, the state DNR is not the only agency that must issue mining permits. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has a say – and if those agencies work together, it’s possible they could review a new mining proposal in 6 to 7 years. That’s a lot longer than one-year time period sought by Republicans.

Cullen also said a Wisconsin Mining Association member told his panel that tougher environmental standards do not hinder mining, as some in the GOP had claimed.

Cullen noted that Gogebic Taconite never said publicly that Wisconsin’s environmental standards were a problem.

Cullen also said it’s a misconception that neighboring Minnesota has a faster mining permit process than Wisconsin. He said the Gopher State has not approved a totally new iron ore mine in 40 years – and one mining application is in its 9th year of review.