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Central Wisconsin Mayors Oppose Sulfide Mining Bill

Mayors Of Wausau, Stevens Point And Wisconsin Rapids Express Concern For Wisconsin River Watershed

Flambeau Mine
The Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith, shown in a photo taken in 1997. The operation is the only sulfide mine permitted by the state in the last 40 years. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-ND)

Three central Wisconsin mayors have signed a letter opposing a bill that would relax sulfide mining regulations.

Mayors Bob Mielke of Wausau, Mike Wiza of Stevens Point, and Zach Vruwink of Wisconsin Rapids sent the letter to the bill’s sponsors Sept. 5.

The letter states that the bill “will have devastating impacts on communities in our state, polluting local waterways and soil that support tourism, agriculture, and jobs in our communities.”

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The bill, called the Mining for America Act, would overturn the “Prove it First” law, which forces companies seeking a permit for sulfide mining to show regulators a similar mine that has operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years without polluting ground water or surface water.

“Sulfide mining has been called one of America’s most toxic industries, just because of the chemicals that are used or left behind — sulfuric acid, arsenic, mercury, things like that,” Wiza said.

Wiza expressed concerns about a mineral deposit near the Eau Claire Dells in Marathon County. A company, Aquila Resources, has drilled soil borings there to determine if the deposit contains gold or other valuable minerals.

“If that mine were to become operational, it could affect the waters that flow through the Eau Claire Dells, which then eventually flow into the Wisconsin River (and) Lake Wausau,” Wiza said. “The Wisconsin River goes right through Stevens Point and right through Wisconsin Rapids, and affects every community between here and there, as well as everything downstream.”

Supporters of Senate Bill 395 say sulfide mining can be done without harming the environment, and would create good paying jobs.

“Mining can be done safely, responsibly, and there is no better place to do it than in Wisconsin,” bill sponsor Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said in a Sept. 8 news release. “It is time to repeal the arbitrary mining moratorium and provide opportunity for northern Wisconsin.”

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