Iron County Resource Development Association: Development group concerned about alternative mining bill

After attending and submitting testimony in favor of an iron ore mining bill (Senate Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 1) last week in Madison, the Iron County Resource Development Association, Inc. (ICRDA) is opposing another mining proposal offered by Senator Tim Cullen. This legislation was released Tuesday a day before the pubic hearing in front of the Senate and Assembly Mining Committees.

“Our Development Association watched all four of the hearings held by Senator Cullen’s Committee and although some of the information was helpful, there was not any representation invited from Iron County” according to Kelly Klein, Director of the ICRDA, “our Board of Directors as well as many in the community were disturbed by this especially since the first 20 years of a mine operation would be in Iron County.”

Klein felt that the legislation authored by Senator Cullen would not facilitate the return of the mining industry to the State of Wisconsin.

“I don’t think a mining company would want to invest in the state if this became law,” said Klein, “an application for a permit is never deemed complete under this proposal and a company would wait years before they could even submit it.”

Klein said the Cullen Bill also has several other shortcomings, including:

1. In Minnesota and Michigan most of the environmental review is complete by the time a mining application is filed. If the DNR and Army Corp of Engineers truly cooperate with a mining company from the first days of the exploratory phase then the review of the application should take no longer than 360 days. New power plants, which are very complicated, can be permitted by the Public Service Commission in this time frame. This legislation calls for a timeline of over 900 days.

2. Requiring a mining company to wait for a decision on a contested case hearing provides an opportunity to delay mining start-up. A company should be allowed to proceed with construction of a mine as they are assuming the risk. This legislation would not allow construction to start.

3. This legislation does not allow a lessee to engage in navigable water activities meaning a company would have to purchase large tracts of land increasing their start up costs.

4. This legislation does not incorporate administrative rules which mean the rules become moving targets creating delays and uncertainty.

5. When determining if an application is complete, a checklist should be used to determine if the required information has been submitted. The quality of information is then determined when the permit is reviewed. This legislation allows quality to be a factor before the information is complete which can cause further delays.

6. Excessive taxation during the first years of mining production is a disincentive to mining. Because of the huge cost of initial investment, a phase in period to reach full taxation would encourage mining. This legislation does not provide for this.

7. The definition of the Public Trust Doctrine has become so broad that we now protect waters that reasonable people would define as spring run off and puddles. If this interpretation persists, no mine, industrial, agricultural or public project will be permitted. This legislation does not address this.

Senate Bill 1 supports the return of mining while protecting the environment. “Some of the processes change, but the metrics for water and air quality remain the same,” according to Klein.

Iron County Resource Development Association, Inc.

Kelly Klein

100 Cary Road, Hurley, WI 54534

Phone: (715) 561-2922

FAX: (715) 561-3103

Web Site: http://www.ironcountywi.com

E-mail: [email protected]