Governor Scott Walker is calling on the state's business leaders to lobby hard for a new mining bill to pave the way for what he says will be thousands of new state jobs.
A state Senate committee will meet Thursday to discuss potential changes in the mining law that failed to pass last session. Gov. Walker's message to members of the state's largest business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce was to push for changes that could take effect this year and allow a mining company to begin digging for iron ore in northern Wisconsin as soon as possible.
"We have the potential to put thousands of people to work just off of one simple action," Walker said. "This is something that we should be focused in on because it's not just important for this project. It sends a tremendously positive message to other employers in other industries that we can make it open for business in Wisconsin and we can still do it in a way that protects the things that are important to us."
Opponents of rewriting the state's strict mining law helped defeat a bill last year that would have allowed the Gogebic Taconite mining company to begin mining a wide swath of land in Ashland and Iron County. Environmental groups and Ojibwe tribal leaders whose land would be affected are fearful the mine will threaten the water quality of the Bad River that flows from the mine site into Lake Superior. But Walker told reporters those fears are unfounded.
"It's one of the most environmentally sound ways to mine is iron ore so in terms of some of the barriers and concerns of the public those are the most minimal when it comes to iron ore," he said.
It's likely that claim will be challenged by mining opponents as the legislature takes up the issue again this week.