UNDATED (WSAU) The head of the Wisconsin Senate’s new mining committee says a bill to streamline the permit process will put a big premium on both the environment and new jobs. Republican Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn says both objectives can work hand-in-hand. Kedzie was one of G-O-P senators named yesterday to what’s officially called the Senate Select Mining Jobs Committee. Democrats will also name members to the panel.
Legislative leaders hope to shorten the timetable to get mining permits – which can now run up to seven years. An effort this spring to shorten the process to 300 days was killed after it hit a wall of opposition.
The apparent goal was to get quick approval for Gogebic Taconite’s proposed iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The company says the project would create 700 jobs. But the neighboring Bad River Indian tribe told Governor Scott Walker this week it would also cause problems for its water quality and wild rice harvesting.
Kedzie said the new panel will respect the Native Americans’ concerns but quote, “We are not going to craft a bill that is destined to fail – We want to be able to get applications from mining companies.” Meanwhile, the Assembly plans to use its current committee structure to take up the mining issue.