Mining bill passes state Assembly, 59-36

As expected, Republicans in the state Assembly have passed a comprehensive bill to speed up the process of considering an iron mine in northwestern Wisconsin.

The bill, AB 426, passed on a vote of 59 to 36. It now goes to the state Senate.

Under the measure, state regulators are directed to act on iron mine applications within a year, and legal challenges to permitting decisions would be eliminated.

The measure has drawn the ire of environmentalists, who say it will pave the way for the Florida-based Gogebic Taconite to open an iron mine near Lake Superior.

The company has said that as many as 700 mining jobs would be created, but environmentalists and local Native American tribes have raised concerns about pollution in one of the state’s most pristine areas.

Gov. Scott Walker praised the vote, noting the legislation is specific to iron mining and stating that it would not undermine natural resources.

“In order to justify risking millions of dollars in capital investments, job creators deserve to have certainty in our state’s permitting process and to know that our regulations are science-based and predictable,” Walker said in a press release.

Walker had urged passage of the bill in his “State of the State” address.