Public Forum about Proposed WI Mining Held in Ashland

By KBJR News 1

January 28, 2012 Updated Jan 28, 2012 at 11:40 PM CDT

Ashland, WI (Northland's NewsCenter) - It didn't take long for the Alvord Theatre—located on the Northland College Campus—to fill with concerned area residents, all of whom—opinions aside—came for one thing:

"...so we can make a decision that's based on data rather than emotional rhetoric... this is really an emotionally charged issue. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Ashland Mayor Bill Whalen.

"We need to talk about both the costs and the benefits of bringing in a mine," said Sam Weis, with Clean Wisconsin.

The forum was held in light of the recent mining bill—AB 426—that was passed by the Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday.
Many present were concerned with the speed at which it passed, especially due to the fact that it lessens much of the existing bill's environmental protections.

"It also silences the voice of the public. It would only leave one public hearing mandatory. And it also eliminates a lot of accountability for mining companies," said Weis.

But while concerns were shared, speakers at the event said they were confident the bill wouldn't make it past the senate.

"I would say that it's very, very likely that the senate is going to come up with something more moderate," said Weis.

"In its current version, [it] has zero chance of passing state legislature," said George Meyer of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

"Even if it gets passed through the senate, I believe—because of the treaty rights we have with the Native Americans—we're going to see the whole issue in court," said Whalen.

And with only two months left in the current Wisconsin state legislative session, it's unlikely that any permit will be agreed upon in the near—and possibly distant—future.

If the Wisconsin Senate is unable to reach a conclusion on the recently passed bill, the proposed permit will automatically be denied.