Republican Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill lifting Wisconsin's moratorium on gold and silver mining.
Walker signed the measure, dubbed the "Mining for America" bill by its GOP authors, Monday at the Oneida County Airport in Rhinelander.
Walker voted to impose the moratorium when he was in the state Assembly in 1998. But his spokesman, Tom Evenson, has said Walker believes mining can be done without harming the environment.
Walker said Monday that technology has improved since 1998 and the risk of pollution isn't what it once was.
"If there's anywhere in the country that can do safe, environmentally sound mining, shouldn't it be in the Badger State?" Walker said.
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The governor also said mining is part of the state's heritage and that young people are looking for careers in the industry. By making it easier to create new mines, it will attract new businesses and keep people from leaving Wisconsin, he said.
Under current state law, sulfide mining applicants have to prove that similar mines have operated and been closed in North America without polluting. Wisconsin regulators have never issued a final determination that any mining applicant has satisfied the requirements, leading critics to label the mandate a de facto ban on sulfide mining.
The new bill eliminates the mandate. It won't go into effect for six months.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 3:12 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, stating Walker signed the bill.