Milwaukee Iron Meeting Not in Mellen, WI

By KBJR News 1

December 14, 2011 Updated Dec 14, 2011 at 7:21 PM CDT

Milwaukee, WI (Northlands NewsCenter) -- A bill to streamline the permitting process and jump start the GTAC mine in Northwestern Wisconsin had hundreds of people packed into a day long public hearing in Milwaukee.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters paid for a bus that would transport citizens hoping to voice their opinions about the controversial mining bill.

The bus was waiting in the parking lot of Northland College in Ashland Wisconsin long before anyone in Milwaukee was traveling to the hearing.

"I'm not too pleased about getting up at five in the morning I just wish they had a hearing up here, but like I said I think they're more concerned about the people in Milwaukee and down state. They're not aware of what's happening up here and we need to take it back down to them and show em."

"I think it's a pathetic show of democracy that we have to travel 350 miles as a people affected by the bill that's being discussed."

The discussion was intense with nearly 130 people registered to comment on the bill which was release just last week.
Although the meeting's location in Milwaukee drew criticism, Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch says the issue has statewide impact.

"A lot of what we manufacture is mining equipment so this is good on two fronts. We're helping our manufactures grow their employee base and we're also providing jobs in the northern half of our state."

With the Republican Assembly Bill on the table, a vote will come in January. Some, however are hoping for another version that will increase environment quality standards that some feel are too weak right now.

"Create a bill that moves forward and increasing the amount of public safety, public health and environmental protection in a mining bill."

According to a summary of the 183-page bill, the Department of Natural Resources would have 360 days to approve or deny an application once the paperwork is deemed complete.

The Senate Assembly is working fast on a version of the bill that may include higher environmental standards.

The bill discussed today would create a situation where the state would collect 50 percent of taxes levied on income from the sale of ore. Those taxes currently are distributed to counties and municipalities where mining is taking place.

Jordan Weinand