The company considering a massive open-pit iron mine in Iron and Ashland Counties told a panel of state lawmakers today that it would start work on a mining permit if a GOP mining bill becomes law. Lawmakers also heard a stern warning from a former head of Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources.
The pledge from executives at Gogebic Taconite, or GTAC, was a reversal from the end of the last legislative session when, after another mining bill failed, the company said it was giving up on a Wisconsin mine. GTAC's Bob Seitz also endorsed the myriad changes to environmental changes to the law.
“The changes that are in the bill are all necessary changes, and they relate to certainty. Certainty isn't just a matter of a timeline.”
GOP lawmakers have stressed, and legislative attorneys have verified, that those changes don't change water quality standards in Wisconsin. But they do grant mining companies exemptions to meet those standards. Wisconsin Wildlife Federation President George Meyer is a former head of the Department of Natural Resources, and said those changes could be major. “These bills will substantially reduce current environmental protections for what will be the largest open pit taconite mine in the world. This is not the small mines in Hurley, Wisconsin, underground.”
Meyer says one of the biggest changes is that a mining company would be allowed to fill in a lake under the GOP plan. He also warned that the 480-day timeline in the bill was impossible for the DNR to meet for a project of this scale.
The hearing continues this afternoon with 150 people still waiting to testify.