Mining Bill Passes Legislature

This evening, after 9.5 hours of debate, the Wisconsin Assembly voted 58-39 to approve a comprehensive iron mining bill, which, when signed by the Governor, will usher in a mining renaissance in Wisconsin. SB1 would create new statutes to govern ferrous (iron) mining, which is currently regulated in the same manner as non-ferrous (non-iron minerals like gold or copper) mining. The bill focuses on reducing regulatory uncertainty and creates a more streamlined and transparent permitting process while retaining all the environmental standards that currently exist under state and federal law.

Wisconsin is home to one of the largest remaining iron ore deposits in North America. Roughly two billion tons of iron ore are located on privately-owned property in Ashland and Iron Counties – enough to sustain more than one-hundred years of mining.

Gogebic Taconite estimates that its proposed mining project in Iron County could potentially be a $1.5 billion investment in Wisconsin. During the construction phase 2,200 construction related jobs will be created. Once the mine reaches its full capacity, Gogebic Taconite estimates there would be 700 to 1,400 full time employees.

The economic ripples from a mine will travel across the state. In Northern Wisconsin those in the hospitality and transportation industries, construction material suppliers, machinery suppliers, fuel providers and “Main Street” businesses will undoubtedly reap the benefits of a mining project. The southeastern part of Wisconsin is home to the world’s two largest mining equipment manufacturers – Joy Global and Caterpillar (formally Bucyrus International), which utilize local machine shops and other manufacturers and suppliers. It is estimated that the mining manufacturing industry employs approximately 11,000 in the metro Milwaukee area.

The bill, which many Hamilton Consulting clients were supportive of, has now passed both houses and is on its way to the Governor’s office. Gov. Walker, who has been supportive of iron mining reform and the job opportunities it presents, is expected to sign the bill.