Bills of Note: Nonferrous Mining

At the end of August, Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) introduced a bill that would make changes to Wisconsin’s regulations on nonferrous metallic mineral mining. Among other provisions, the bill would:

  • repeal the prohibition on sulfide ore permits,
  • change the location at which groundwater standards may apply at nonferrous metallic mining sites,
  • makes changes to the nonferrous mining permitting process, including reducing predictive modeling requirements, creating a timeline for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to review applications, allowing DNR to issue high capacity well permits on the condition that the permittee ensure unreasonable detriments to water supplies do not occur, and changing the hearing process for Environmental Impact Statements.

The bill (SB 395) was referred to the Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry. On Sept. 6, the Committee held an informational tour of the Flambeau Mine Site that closed in 1997, followed by a public hearing in Ladysmith the next day.

At the hearing, the bills authors argued that changing Wisconsin’s mining regulations would create economic development opportunity for northern Wisconsin and would in turn create jobs and revenue across the entire state. Others testifying in favor of the bill included local government officials from northeast Wisconsin and several mining and engineering firms from the area. Also registered in favor of the bill are Americans for Prosperity, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, and local government officials from various areas of the state.

Those opposing the bill were mostly concerned about the environmental implications of repealing Wisconsin’s mining prohibitions. Those testifying against the bill included River Alliance of Wisconsin and Sierra Club. Also registered against the bill are Clean Wisconsin and Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.