Company says it is abandoning plans for northern Wisconsin mineWisconsin News
Gogebic Taconite says it will not build its proposed open-pit iron ore mine after the state Senate rejected a bill late Wednesday that would have amended Wisconsin's mine permitting process.
Gogebic Taconite says it will not build its proposed open-pit iron ore mine after the state Senate rejected a bill late Wednesday would have amended the Wisconsin's mine permitting process.
The vote was 17 to 16 against a package that would have speeded up the state’s process for approving iron ore mines like the one planned for the Hurley area.
Richland Center Republican Dale Schultz joined all 16 Democrats in voting no.
Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams said the vote sent “a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining.”
“We get the message,” Williams added.
Company lobbyist Bob Seitz said the statement was not a negotiating ploy, saying, “That’s done.”
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said, “We let something slip away.” He was referring to the 700 jobs that Gogebic Taconite said the mine would have created.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker campaigned for the bill’s approval this past week at a Milwaukee mining equipment plant and other Wisconsin suppliers that would have benefited from Gogebic’s project.
Walker left the door open Wednesday night saying he’d call a special session if a deal could not be found by the time the regular session ends next Thursday.
But Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald said it would be hard to round up votes now, especially because the upcoming recall elections could further politicize what’s already a contentious issue.
Schultz, the Senate’s most moderate Republican, said he could not support a mining bill that could damage the environment and end the public’s ability to challenge individual DNR decisions before a permit is issued.
Decision spurs intense reactions
Gogebic Taconite’s decision to pull out of Wisconsin stirred some intense reactions on both sides.
Anne Sayers of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters called it a “victory for Wisconsin families and clean drinking water.” She said the bill was filled with “some of the worst conservation rollbacks in recent memory.”
Senate Democrat Bob Jauch, whose district includes the proposed mining site, said his colleagues could not find a proper balance between creating jobs and protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
Jim Buchen of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group called it “a missed opportunity for the folks in northern Wisconsin to have an economically secure future.”
Senate GOP finance chair Alberta Darling said she was “amazed” to see senators raise red flags about water quality after watching the Milwaukee area dump raw sewage into Lake Michigan for years.
Some mining supporters still hold out hope, but Gogebic Taconite said its decision was not negotiable.
Darling said she would still look for solutions, but added, “I fear the Democrats in the Senate feel it’s more important for Scott Walker to lose his job, than it is to provide jobs to thousands of folks in our state.”
A week ago, Gogebic president Bill Williams said his firm did some mineral exploration in Michigan and discussed mining with officials there.