• WisPolitics
11/30/2012

Numerous reasons to support mining bill

By Joel Kleefisch

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Last session the mining bill died in the Senate by one vote. This coming year I fully expect it will pass in both houses and be signed into law.

Why the mining bill again this session? The reasons are clear and numerous.

First, it will stimulate the economy throughout all of Wisconsin to the tune of $20.6 million in state and local tax revenue in the first two years. The economic impact is estimated at $2 billion. Approximately 3,200 jobs will be created each of those two years. That is nearly 6,400 jobs for the first two years combined.

Projections are that 2,800 to 5,600 long-term mining jobs will be created. The annual economic impact is estimated between $600 million and $1.2 billion. That would create between $17 million and $34 million is estimated in annual state and local tax revenue.

Iron County's unemployment rate is 8.9 percent. Only Menominee County has a higher unemployment rate at 13.7 percent. There has been a 25 percent decline in employment opportunities. Population has also taken a hit, dropping by 13.8 percent over the past decade. This is all in Iron County.

Why are people leaving? When there are no jobs there is no opportunity to provide for a family. Through this mining legislation, thousands of jobs would be brought to Northern Wisconsin. These are well paying jobs providing benefits. Average annual pay is $82,000. People will be lining up for these jobs.

The mining bill concerns ferrous mining, meaning that the environmental impact will be minimal. Ferrous mining for iron uses magnets, as opposed to sulfide mining, which uses chemicals. With ferrous mining there is no risk of acid drainage contaminating ground and surface water. The magnets separate the metal from rock.

Some are concerned that mining corporations will trash the wetlands. Again, not true. In the bill that failed to pass last session, mining companies would not have been allowed to dump solid waste into the wetlands. The bill dealt only with ferrous mining, as would the new bill. Laws regarding sulfide mining remain intact and untouched.

Anyone who is worried about environmental impact should do an internet search for Lake Wazee in Jackson County. What does that have to do with mining and the environment? Lake Wazee was created as spring water filled in an abandoned iron mine. It has a beautiful beach and is one of the state's most popular lakes for scuba diving.

Last winter, at a hearing in Northern Wisconsin the mining bill had 75 percent support of the approximately 400 people in attendance. That's with good reason. The new mining legislation will create thousands of jobs. It presents huge fiscal and economic benefits for Wisconsin. It creates a reasonable permitting process and timeline without compromising environmental integrity.

It will be great for Wisconsin, and I will be proud to have a hand in getting it passed.

-- Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, represents Wisconsin's 38th Assembly District.
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