Posted at: 01/23/2013 6:39 PM
Updated at: 01/24/2013 10:26 AM
By: Maarja Anderson
During the hours of mining discussion from both sides, Gogebic Taconite promised a $1.5 billion investment if this particular piece of mining legislation is passed. They would build an iron ore mine in the Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron Counties.
This was the first joint public hearing of Senate and Assembly mining committees to discuss mining legislation that would streamline the mining permitting process.
The hearing was scheduled for 12 hours, with testimony from bill authors, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Gogebic Taconite representatives and residents from across the state.
The hearing got off to a heated start when strict time limits and question restrictions were revealed. Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, even said the hearing amounted to a "kangaroo court."
Even before taking a stance on this Republican-backed mining bill, northern Wisconsin legislators called for another hearing where this legislation would most greatly impact.
"I think it's an absolute travesty that we are having one public hearing on such an important bill, 300 miles away from the people that are going to be most affected," said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range.
That however, didn't stop the dozens of people that drove hours south to talk, signing up one by one and waiting their turn. "To sit and watch your family, neighbors, friends, and own children move away for better employment opportunities for the last 50 years is a heartbreaking experience," said Gary Pelkola, of Hurley.
"My main concern is our belief. The land is very important to not just my people but all of us," said Ho-Chunk Nation member Robert Mann.
While conservationists questioned the environmental impact a mine would have, authors of the bill say northern Wisconsin's pristine woods and lakes are safe.
"We are confident as authors that the air and water quality protections in this bill will not result in environment degradation should an iron mine be permitted by the DNR," said Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford.