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State Assembly putting mine site protection compromise on fast track

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The Wisconsin Assembly is moving quickly to try and pass a compromise for restricting public access at the proposed Gogebic Taconite mining site. 

The Assembly's Forestry Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bill late Thursday morning, after Senate Republicans rammed it through their chamber on a party line vote Tuesday.

The original plan was to ban public access on all 3,200 acres of the proposed mining site in Ashland and Iron counties, where the property owner gets a tax break for allowing public recreation under the state's managed forest law.

The compromise would ban public access within 600 feet of mining roads and most mining equipment -- and the landowner would have to surrender tax breaks on any property that's closed. All the land would also be open to deer hunters in the November gun season. 

The restrictions were proposed in the wake of a theft and vandalism incident by mining protestors at the site in June.  

The bill's supporters say it's needed to protect the workers. Opponents call it a "sweetheart deal" for the mining firm, by preventing independent evaluators to determine the mine's viability.