State News

Sulfide-mining moratorium set to be lifted after two decades

Image By: Katie Scheidt

Wisconsin’s strict environmental protections against “toxic” sulfide mining would be repealed in a bill passed by the Legislature in an effort to boost economic growth.

Originally signed into law by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998, the current mining ban requires companies to prove that the sulfide mine can run for ten years and then be closed for ten years without polluting groundwater or surface water.

At the time of its nearly unanimous passage, sulfide mining techniques proved incapable of following these established standards. Wisconsin has not had an operating sulfide mine since.

Critics of the repeal bill, titled The Mining for America Act, are concerned that sulfide mining remains incapable of ensuring minimal environmental impact.

“The EPA calls the mining of sulfide ore America’s most toxic industry,” state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said in a press release Wednesday. “We should not be helping mining companies - we should be protecting our water from chemicals like sulfuric acid, arsenic, lead and other carcinogens.”

The bill’s supporters, however, believe it offers a step towards investing in Wisconsin’s industry, and providing jobs and economic growth.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, author of the bill, released a press release on Tuesday stating that “the Mining for America Act ensures that our rich mining tradition can continue into the future and provide economic opportunity for northern Wisconsin.”

The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, who has signaled his intent to sign it into law.

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