WisBusiness: Gogebic Taconite pulls plug on Wisconsin plans after Senate rejects mining bill

By WisBusiness Staff

Gogebic Taconite announced late Tuesday night it’s pulling out of a planned iron mine in northern Wisconsin after the state Senate rejected a bill to make it easier to begin operation.

The Senate voted 17-16 with GOP Sen. Dale Schultz joining Dems to reject an amended version of the bill the Joint Finance Committee approved along party lines Monday. The Senate then voted unanimously to send the bill back to Senate Org to continue working on the legislation.

But G-Tac announced its decision just hours later, prompting a round of finger pointing.

“Senate rejection of the mining reforms in Assembly Bill 426 sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining,” company President Bill Williams said. “We get the message. GTac is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine.”

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald ripped Senate Democrats and Schultz for the development, saying they sided with environmentalists over hundreds of jobs badly needed in northern Wisconsin.

“I don’t know if people thought the mining company was bluffing, but they weren’t,” Fitzgerald said. “But they were dead wrong, and we told them all along.”

Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said even if the Senate was able to cobble together a mining bill that could clear that house, there would be no point in taking it to his caucus for consideration unless it could persuade G-Tac to change its mind. He added the version of the bill Schultz and Dem Sen. Bob Jauch have been working on would not do the trick and did not have the needed support in his caucus.

Jauch called the company’s decision “bizarre.”

Jauch, D-Poplar, said he spoke with G-Tac’s Williams Monday night, and the company president gave no indication that his bottom line was the Assembly version of the legislation. Jauch said the conversation was cordial, and he didn’t get the impression Williams even had a bottom line he was pushing.

“I think it is a deliberate attempt to scare or hold people hostage,” Jauch said of the company’s decision. “It may be sincere, but by God, they weren’t upfront about what their bottom line was.”