Wisconsin Mines: Big Jobs, Environmental Concerns

By KBJR News 1

January 4, 2013 Updated Jan 4, 2013 at 7:50 PM CST

Mellen, WI (NNCNOW.com) - The business of mining has become a hot topic for many living in Wisconsin due to the impact on area jobs and the environment.

Several state lawmakers are introducing a bill that would reform Wisconsin's mining laws.

Lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would reform the state's mining laws.

Governor Scott Walker is on his "Mining For Jobs Tour," visiting companies who are hoping to benefit from new iron ore mines, one being located in the Northland.

"In the end we can get a bill that I think—for both democrats and republicans—will ultimately in supportive of—but it's got to be a bill that leads to more jobs. Just having a bill that talks about mining and doesn't lead to more jobs would be a failed effort," Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker said.

Those impacted by the economic growth are reacting.

"If any type of mining is done in Ashland County and it's done responsibly, we support that project," Jeff Beirl, Ashland County Administrator, said.

County Adminstrator Jeff Beirl says as of summer 2012, the unemployment rate in Ashland County was at nine point seven percent and Iron County was at ten point six percent.

If a mine were to go in the proposed site located in the Penokee Range in Mellen, Wisconsin, 700 jobs would kick off the project, with more than 25 hundred jobs in its first phase.

Keep in mind, Mellen is a town with a population of just 750.

Beirl says despite the job growth, the potential impact on the environment is a big concern, bringing many of questions.

"Are there going to be issues with contamination, with sulfide acid leaching into the bad river watershed," Beirl said.

Beirl says issues with dynamite blasting and dust need to be addressed.

People we talked to say the mine is the talk of the town.

“I’d really like to see the whole city expand and grow and become something more, than to be less and less and less," Michael Gregor, a Mellen business owner, said.

“I think it would be great for the economy. I think as far as the environmental issues—I mean this day in age, with all we know about pollution and keeping things green, I don’t see that it is going to be a problem," Gwen Lawver, a Mellen resident said.

“My well is only 70 feet deep here. It’s good water. If they are going to be digging up thousands of feet deep, I do worry about the water," David Janz, a Mellen resident said.

Lawmakers will take up the issue in Madison January 7th.

Justin Reis, NNC.
jreis@kbjr.com