The last Senate mining meeting under Democratic control is set for Thursday. Part of the meeting will focus on how iron ore mining would help, and burden nearby communities.
Senate Mining Committee Chairman Tim Cullen wants to hear from local governments located in potential mining areas, “We want them to tell us why it’s so important that the money stay in the area. What are the physical needs, roads, schools or whatever? What are the needs in terms of economic development efforts? Costs that the area will incur because of mining, issues I don’t know about. That’s why I’m so anxious to hear from them.”
Mellen Mayor Joe Barabe has some thoughts. His town of 730 people is nearest the proposed $1.5 billion Penokee Range mine. First, a mining company can’t wait until construction is done and mining begins before making payments to nearby communities, “If you don’t have to show a profit for seven years and I get 250 more kids in my school and we’ve got to hire six or eight more teachers, our taxes right now are, I can’t go any higher.”
Next, a guarantee that some of the mining jobs will be filled locally. Then, have an environmental fund in case of pollution from an open pit mine. Barabe says Mellen gets its water from the Penokees, so he's concerned with a BP Gulf of Mexico-type of environmental disaster, “And all the people in the town of Morris and the town of Anderson if their wells run dry. Do they have to go to court to get a well? What are we going to do in the meantime if we get a BP.”
Barabe says these things weren’t part of the Assembly bill which failed to pass in March, “I’m pro-mine. I’m anti-bill. I’m just waiting for the right bill to come along. Most Mellenites are the same way. We don’t want to get hurt.”
Cullen says he wants to increase the amount of mining tax money to local communities from 60% in the Assembly bill to 90% or more.
The meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the State Capitol Building.