One of the sponsors of a bill to end Wisconsin’s moratorium on metallic mineral mining says the move could help transform the state’s economy. As Media Trackers reported Thursday, State Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Rob Hutton have introduced a bill that would repeal the existing prohibition on issuing sulfide ore mining permits. Tiffany told Media Trackers Thursday that restarting the mining industry in Wisconsin would have an immeasurable impact on the economy:
We’re all talking about Foxconn at this point; an enormous economic growth we could see in Wisconsin, bringing a new industry into Wisconsin. Well we have an industry in mining that is basically defunct at this point. As you know we have that miner on our flag here in Wisconsin and we want to put him back to work. We’re calling this bill Mining for America. We remove the mining moratorium language and we put other provisions in the bill to streamline some of the permitting. But we do not change any environmental standards with this bill, just some of the processes.
We have one of the greatest non-ferrous mineral deposits in the world here in Northern Wisconsin…we have a great opportunity to restart what could be a multi-billion dollar industry. You don’t make those products that Foxconn is going to make out of nothing. You take a Toyota Prius; it contains 64 pounds of copper. Those wind turbines that you see on the east coat of Wisconsin; they take up to 8,000 pounds of copper in them. So we have to have those raw materials in order to be able to have a prosperous society. And isn’t it better for us to produce them here in our state and in the United States, rather than exporting that to another country that doesn’t have the tough environmental standards that we do.
Tiffany and others point to the former Flambeau mine at Ladysmith as an example of how a mine can be both operated and closed safely. But critics of the moratorium say it was crafted in such a way that the short time the mine was in operation precludes it from being used as an example of a safe mine that the law requires for a new mine to be started. Ladysmith City Administrator Al Christianson sent an email statewide to media arguing that there have been no adverse effects to the environment by the Flambeau mine, despite claims by environmentalists to the contrary. Tiffany says they plan a counteroffensive to the anticipated environmental PR campaign against lifting the moratorium.
So you have that misinformation that is out there and we’re going to just try to correct the record throughout the process and try to get ahead of it to make sure the people have the facts about this and that we can do this successfully here in Wisconsin…If we can’t utilize resources in Northern Wisconsin, we will not have prosperity. And we can do that safely and this bill lays out the parameters to have a reasonable permitting process, a rigorous permitting process and if a company is able to meet those standards, they will get a permit.
But Tiffany says they will also make the case that we can protect the state’s natural resources above the ground while extracting the ones beneath it:
Take a look at the pictures of the Flambeau site where they mined back in the late ’90s. There were three terrific pictures I saw: one before, one during and one after. That during, there is a mess of a pit there and all of the stuff goes on in regards to mining down in that pit. And then they show reclamation. And you can hardly tell the difference between the picture now that is there and the before the mining picture.
Tiffany says the legislation will make sure that companies follow the rules and to make sure they have good reclamation processes for these mining sites. Tiffany says they need to make that case because extreme environmentalists have assisted in the export of manufacturing from our country:
There are two things that we have done that I believe have really harmed manufacturing in our country. One is pass policy. The second thing is not being able to utilize natural resources, whether it’s our forestry wealth or our mining wealth. And people are saying now, and you saw it with the Trump election in 2016, these people in rural America and rural Wisconsin said “we can do this stuff.” We want manufacturing. It is how we sustain middle-class jobs. And that’s what we’re doing here, bringing good middle-class jobs back to Wisconsin.