Despite numerous attempts at compromise, the Wisconsin Senate was unable to pass iron mining permit reform legislation. Shortly after the Senate voted down the latest compromise legislation, Gogebic Taconite announced it would cease operations in Wisconsin.
Iron mining permit reform has been a hot topic in Wisconsin since Gogebic Taconite announced they were interested in building a $1.5 billion iron mine in northern Wisconsin if they could get some certainty as to when they would get their mining permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
For the past month, the Wisconsin Senate has held the reins on mining reform, working off of the bill passed by the Assembly (AB 426) in January and various Senate versions. AB 426 passed on a party line vote in the Assembly, and it was assumed that passage in the Senate would happen that way as well. However, Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) refused to support the Assembly bill, and rejected numerous compromises offered by fellow Republicans.
Schultz, who had teamed up with Senator Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) to draft a substitute bill, ultimately voted with the Senate Democrats against the Republicans’ compromise bill.
The compromise bill was referred back to a committee, so it is still possible that the Senate could take up the issue again before the end of session.
Shortly after the Senate vote on Tuesday, Gogebic Taconite issued the following statement:
Senate rejection of the mining reforms in Assembly Bill 426 sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message. GTac is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine. We thank the many people who have supported our efforts.