A 183-page “Iron Mining Bill” (2011 Assembly Bill 426) was introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature in December 2011. After passing the Wisconsin Assembly in early 2012 but failing to pass the Wisconsin Senate, the bill was reintroduced in both houses the following legislative session (2013 Assembly Bill 1 / 2013 Senate Bill 1).
The bill sought to create a separate regulatory scheme for iron mining in the State of Wisconsin, thereby bypassing the state’s previously enacted metallic mining code that had made no distinction between iron mining and other types of metallic mining (copper, zinc, gold, silver …). The bill weakened environmental protections for iron mining as compared to the other types of metallic mining and was strongly supported by those favoring construction of a newly proposed iron mine in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills, upstream of the Bad River Reservation and Lake Superior. The proposed mine, if built, purportedly would be the largest open pit mine in the world.
Even before Assembly Bill 426 (AB 426) was introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature, the state’s mining laws already contained numerous loopholes benefitting the mining industry at the expense of environmental protection. AB 426 made things even worse. For a report comparing those earlier laws to the provisions contained in AB 426, please click on the below link. Also listed are various exhibits cited in the report:
- Wisconsin’s “Tough” Mining Laws and Rules, and how they compare to 2011 AB 426
There is no justification for enacting weaker environmental protections for iron mining as compared to other types of metallic mining in the State of Wisconsin. Indeed, stronger, not weaker, environmental safeguards need to be enacted by Wisconsin lawmakers for all types of metallic mining in the state to protect public waters from mining-related pollution.
This lesson can best be learned by looking at the example of the Flambeau Mine that operated near Ladysmith, Wisconsin in the mid-1990s. Indeed, evidence on the Flambeau Mine was submitted to the Wisconsin Legislature on January 31, 2013 by the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council to aid lawmakers in their consideration of 2013 SB 1/AB 1.
Please click on the below links for official documents:
- 2011 AB 426
- 2013 SB 1
- 2013 AB 1
- Analysis of 2013 SB 1/AB 1, Wisconsin Legislative Council, January 14, 2013
- Evidence on the Flambeau Mine for the Wisconsin Legislature, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, January 31, 2013
- Evidence on the Flambeau Mine for the Wisconsin Senate Select Committee on Mining, Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, October 22, 2012
Oral Testimony offered to Wisconsin lawmakers on the “Iron Mining Bill” was extensive, including the following two examples:
- Laura Gauger offered testimony to the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business in January 2012 regarding 2011 Assembly Bill 426. To hear her testimony and read an article she wrote about her experience in opposing enactment of the bill, click on the following links:
- Stephen Donohue offered testimony to the Wisconsin Senate Select Committee on Mining in September 2012 regarding mining regulation reform. Donohue is a Board Member of the Wisconsin Mining Association and also a director at Foth Infrastructure & Environment, an engineering consulting firm that was/is involved in various mining projects in the Great Lakes region (Rio Tinto/Flambeau, PolyMet/NorthMet, Rio Tinto/Eagle). In his testimony, Mr. Donohue made false statements about the environmental performance of the Flambeau Mine in an effort to convince legislators to weaken Wisconsin’s mining regulations and rescind the state’s Mining Moratorium Law. To hear Donohue’s testimony, click on the following link:
- http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/6623 (Website static image ). Testimony of particular interest starts at just under 20 minutes into the tape, as recorded by Wisconsin Eye.
- A transcript of some of the more egregious comments made by Mr. Donohue can be seen by clicking HERE.
The following chapters from The Buzzards Have Landed! – The Real Story of the Flambeau Mine contain additional information relevant to the debate over mining law reform in Wisconsin:
- Chapter 33_Existing Statutes Call for Non-Degradation of Wisconsin’s Waters
- Chapter 123_A List of Wisconsin’s “Tough” Mining Laws
- Chapter 124_Using the Public Trust Doctrine to Help Change Wisconsin’s Weak Mining Laws
Despite strong public opposition, 2013 AB1/SB1 passed both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on March 11, 2013 to become 2013 Wisconsin Act 1. Even though the new legislation effectively gutted environmental protections, the Mining Moratorium Law thankfully survived. But we must remain ever vigilant.
Please click on the below links for official documents:
- Legislative history of 2013 SB 1 (Website Static Image)
- Legislative history of 2013 AB 1 (Website Static Image)
- 2013 Wisconsin Act 1
In early 2012, Bill Krupinski (“The People’s Cartoonist”) designed, with input from a Bad River tribal elder, a logo used in the battle to protect Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills and wild rice waters from the mining industry’s grasp. The logo, which at the time was made freely available to those “fighting the good fight,” continues to be relevant. Whether it’s the Bad River, Menominee River, Wolf River, Lake Superior or any other water resource, the purity of that water has been and must continue to be “reserved” for future generations. In the same Spirit as when the “WATER RESERVED” logo was first designed and made freely available to the public, please use the logo in any way you see fit – posters, banners, T-shirts, stationery … . The only thing we ask is that you please do not alter the artwork.
If you click on the image, you will be able to access a file that is scaled for printing on regular (letter size) paper. If you click HERE, the attached file is a bit larger and scaled so it can be made into an 18″ x 24″ poster.