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Walker Signs Mining Legislation, What Comes Next?

Posted at: 03/11/2013 9:18 PM
Updated at: 03/12/2013 1:04 AM
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

With the stroke of a pen two years of legislative debate comes to an end in Wisconsin.

Governor Scott Walker signed off on a controversial piece of mining legislation in Rhinelander Monday afternoon.

The newly-signed legislation is designed to help mining company Gogebic Taconite open a mine in the Penokee Range of Ashland and Iron counties. But an actual mine is still a long way out. Not only do they need federal approval first, parties in opposition expect lawsuits to be filed against the legislation.

Despite those factors, the signing of the mining bill is a victory for Republicans.

At the Oldenburg Group, a mining equipment company, Walker said "the jobs that come from this won't be just at the mine. They will be from companies that do work related to mining."

Wayne Oldenburg, the company CEO, said if the mine comes he will have to expand. "It would create more jobs and you'll see as you walk through the facility we'll have to build more floor space too."

Republicans say the mine will create thousands of jobs. But in an interview on March 8, Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, bluntly explained why he thinks they're wrong. "In the guise of job creation [it] actually creates no jobs because the legislation is so flawed it will be argued in court," he said.

Jauch told us the legislation "diminishes environmental protections."

The impact mining might have on the environment and water quality is a man concern of Mike Wiggins, Jr., the Tribal Chairman of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

In an interview in January, he told Eyewitness News "this is catastrophic. The obliteration of the headwaters that flow directly through our home is something we want people to wrap their minds around and think about because the impacts are forever."

The Bad River's reservation is just north of the proposed mine site. Chairman Wiggins, Jr. said the tribe plans to begin raising money for a possible lawsuit challenging the mining changes later this week.