Mining in Wisconsin
Mining has been a part of Wisconsin's economy for a long time. However, the legacy of historic zinc and lead mining in Wisconsin has come with great costs. Groundwater and surface water pollution occurred in southwest Wisconsin from abandoned toxic mine wastes covering thousands of acres and requiring cleanup. As a result, along with proposals for much larger and more destructive modern mining, the Wisconsin legislature passed important and comprehensive mining legislation in the early 1980's. This legislation recognized that all forms of metallic mining, whether iron, copper, lead, zinc, or precious metals, are inherently destructive to the environment and have significant impacts to local communities due to its "boom and bust" nature. The boom and bust of mining requires sound planning to mitigate the economic, social,and environmental impacts of large-scale natural resource extraction.
In 2011, a coal mining company, Cline Resources and Development, proposed strip mining a known taconite (iron ore) deposit in Iron and Ashland Counties. Taconite mining is another form of metallic sulfide mining, although some mining companies would like it to be considered a different mining category. Cline's Gogebic Taconite wants to open the largest mine in Wisconsin history in the Bad River Watershed of Lake Superior. After legislation that would have gutted environmental protections for taconite mining failed in 2012, Gogebic Taconite temporarily withdrew their proposal. Click here to learn more about the proposed Penokee Mine.
In early 2013, AB426 was resurrected with the introduction of 2013 AB 1/SB 1, a bill virtually identical to the failed bill to gut mining safeguards from the previous session. After a single public hearing in Madison Jan. 23, SB 1 passed out of the Assembly and Senate Mining and Jobs Committees Feb. 6. The Senate passed SB 1 by a vote of 17-16 on 02/27/13, the Assembly passed it by a vote of 58-39 on 03/07/13. Gov. Walker signed 2013 Act 1 on 03/11/13. Despite this setback, we will continue to work against the weakening of our mining safeguards and the permitting of destructive mines in Wisconsin.
09/04/13: SB 278 was introduced as another special favor for GTAC. If enacted, this would allow the mining company to block public access to 3,500 acres of managed forest land near the proposed mining site without paying back taxes as any other participant would be required to do. Although SB 278 was recently amended by Senator Cowles, it does not alleviate the problem, roads near the site could be closed off, effectively closing off over 1,200 acres of managed forest land. Click on the attached map to see managed forest land that will be closed if this bill passes. Click here to tell your legislators to vote 'no' on SB 278.
10/17/13: Sen. Tiffany is now proposing SB 349, to completely strip local control from communities facing sand mining and iron mining threats. Tiffany's legislation establishes broad, sweeping limits on local governments in Wisconsin facing threats to air and water from frac sand mining, iron mining and any form of development under the guise of "regulatory certainty". Among the many limits proposed, Tiffany's legislation would bar any local government from regulating the use of explosives in both frac sand and iron mining. Help us raise the alarms about this horrible proposal. Read our press release here, click here for the bill draft (SB 349) and read his description of this horrible proposal, then Urge your legislators to oppose this bill today!
Mining Moratorium Under Attack
Acid Mine Drainage,
Before the 'Prove It First' or Mining Moratorium Law was approved, the mining industry was challenged to give one example of a mine in metallic sulfides that had been safely operated and closed without polluting the environment. Mining metals found together with sulfides causes acid mine drainage (AMD) when the sulfides are exposed to air and water causing acid production that leaches toxic metals in waters. To this day, the mining industry has not documented a single proven example.
In 2012, mining industry lobbyists and legislators targeted Wisconsin’s landmark Moratorium Law for repeal. The Sierra Club was one of dozens of state organizations along with thousands of Wisconsin citizens who demanded that the mining industry prove it first. We oppose efforts to repeal this important law. Click here to learn more about Wisconsin's Mining Moratorium
As hydraulic fracturing continues to be used as a means to extract natural gas, moreand more frac sand, a resource found in western Wisconsin, is being mined in the state. The sand used for frac sand is silicon dioxide, quartz, sand. These sand grains have to be able to withstand huge amounts of pressure, while propping the fractures open, without crumbling.
According to the Wisconsin DNR, frac sand mining has been operating in Wisconsin for 40 years, but only recently, with increased demand, Wisconsin now has 60 frac sand mines operating, and 20 new mines have been proposed. Click here to learn more about sand mining in Wisconsin.
Select Mining News
Republicans unveil mining bill with some 'less stringent' regulations, Journal Sentinel: article about the 'new' AB 426
Mining Bill on fast track as new legislative session begins, Wisconsin State Journal: Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos mentioning he would like to introduce mining legislation the first week of session.
Senate Select Committee on Mining, WisconsinEYE: Senate hearings with testimony from the DNR, Clean Wisconsin, League of Conservation Voters, the Mining Association and more.
To get involved, please contact Elizabeth Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 256-0565.