While the proposed iron mine in Northern Wisconsin will open much needed jobs, the lack of environmental consideration is believed to be potentially harmful towards the forests, water tables, surrounding landscapes and local wildlife in the proposed mine site. Wisconsin’s long standing environmental protection laws are being threatened as an out of state mining company seeks to move in on Northern Wisconsin’s iron reserves, according to Representative Fred Clark of Sauk County.
The out of state company, Gogebic Taconite, plans to create an estimated 2,200 jobs by opening a new mine in Northern Wisconsin, with 700 of those jobs being created during initial construction. The new jobs would pay an average of $82,000, an amount almost double that of the county average. According to Larry Kaufmann, a supporter of the proposed mining, “Ashland and Iron counties contain about 2 billion tons of iron ore deposits, which is enough to support 100 years of mining.” Both Ashland and Iron are currently struggling with an average income of $35,000, according to the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council.
However, the bills being passed to create the opportunity for mining and the possible jobs it would bring are being highly contested by the local people. Tribal groups are also opposed, namely the Bad River Chippewa Tribe. Tribal Chair Mike Wiggins Jr. has testified to the minerals produced by the waste rock from the mine to be harmful to the tribe’s wild rice beds, according to Wisconsin Resources Protection Council. The bills have been moderately revised in recent legislative meetings; however they still fall short of the environmentally conscious expectations of Wisconsin natives.
“Instead of listening to citizens who are overwhelmingly opposed to the sweeping environmental deregulation contained in this bill, the author of the bill seem content with a few minor changes that retain all the worst aspects of this legislation,” said Clark. “We cannot afford the ‘any mine at any price’ mantra that is driving this legislation. Instead, we should be striking the best deal for everyone in Wisconsin by assuring that our environmental protections remain strong, and that any mine built in Wisconsin provides reinvestment and fair return for local communities.”
Senator Tim Cullen is leading on reforming the bills to provide for the protection of the environment as well as creating family centered jobs and improves the overall Wisconsin economy. The weekend of the ninth, Senator Cullen organized a meeting in order to determine the feelings of the locals of Ashland county. 200 people attended, from tribal leaders to local residents, according to the Daily Chronicle. While weighing the positive and negative impacts of the proposed mine, the sentiment towards dissatisfaction with the legislation was clear. But there were also residents who support the bill, such as Frank Costka, a northern Wisconsin native and head of the Ashland County Republican Party. In a meeting on February ninth, he stated that it would cause a great economic boost for the area. “Tourism doesn’t pay a living wage,” said Costka.