The chairmen of the Iron County Democrats and the Iron County Republicans have sent a joint letter to the chair of the Wisconsin Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs asking the legislature to enact legislation to remove obstacles slowing down the approval process for proposed mining operations.
Local Economic Benefits
Gogebic Taconite is proposing to spend $1.5 billion building an iron mine in Iron County, but it is holding back on starting the project until the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources eases its permitting process.
The joint letter stated, “Both parties understand that nearly everything we do depends on mining our resources, and that the Iron County area has over a 100 year history of mining, yet our environment is still pristine.”
Long Permitting Process
The Iron County region has been mined since the 1880s, but the last iron ore mined in Wisconsin was in 1965.
The current mining permit process through the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) takes a minimum of three and a half years and can run up to seven years.
The joint letter added, “the political parties in Iron County have worked hand in hand on this economic development effort for a year and a half through public hearings, lobbying efforts in Madison and the hundreds of yard signs supporting mining.”
Scott Manly, director of environmental and energy policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), refers to legislation speeding up the permitting process as the “Jobs for Generations Act.”
“Wisconsin’s current mining laws discourage capital investment with an unclear, costly, and time consumer permitting process,” Manly said. “We have an opportunity to attract an iron mining project that would provide Wisconsin with thousands of family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”
“To capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, Wisconsin must enact an iron mining law that establishes a fair and predictable permitting framework,” Manly explained. “We are confident that the mining permitting process can be streamlined while maintaining adequate protection of the environment.”
“The reform of the permitting process that the legislature is contemplating will be very similar to permitting processes in neighboring states,” said Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna).
“When completed, we will have legislation that makes the process much more efficient and eliminates unnecessary delays while still protecting Wisconsin’s precious environmental resources.”
“Once passed, this bill will open the door for the creation of hundreds of high-paying jobs in an area of the state that is in desperate need of them,” Steineke added. “Those jobs will in return create hundreds of others statewide as other businesses see increased demand for their products.”
D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is a Milwaukee-based economist.