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Walker signs mining bill

With a sign on a desk that read "Mining for Jobs," Governor Scott Walker signed the bill March 11 that seeks to make it easier to open a new iron-ore mine in far northern Wisconsin.

Walker signed the measure at a plant in Rhinelander that makes mining equipment and had another ceremony planned in Milwaukee. Walker stressed that the new law would protect environmental safeguards, while providing "certainty" to the process of getting a mining permit.

The law sets a time limit for the DNR to act on a mining application. It adjusts environmental standards in a way Republicans say would not hurt natural resources.

Critics say the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine would contaminate water and wild rice at the Bad River Indian reservation downstream. Bad River tribal chairman Mike Wiggins, Jr. told the AP his group would start a fund drive by the end of the week to challenge the new mining law in court.

Republicans have said the measure could result in a new mine operating as early as three years. But Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville said it would be more like 7-10 years considering legal actions, pre-application approvals, and a federal review of a new mine.