Assembly Committee Approves Lifting State Sulfide Mining Moratorium

Opponents Argue Change Would Endanger The Environment

Wisconsin capitol building in Madison
Rough Tough, Real Stuff (CC BY-NC-ND)

A state Assembly committee has approved a plan to lift Wisconsin’s decades old moratorium on sulfide mining.

Wisconsin’s mining moratorium, signed by former Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998, requires companies seeking to mine sulfide ores such as copper, zinc, or gold to provide examples of similar Canadian or U.S. mines that operated and were closed for 10 years without causing pollution before they being able to mine in the state.

Republicans who want to end the moratorium say it’s stifling Wisconsin’s economy, but Democrats, including Rep. Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee, say it still serves a purpose.

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“When you start talking about this type of mining, I don’t know if I want to call it doomsday, but you’re decimating our environment, our water and our future,” Sinicki said.

Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake, said the change would come with some risks, but Wisconsin is equipped to handle them.

“Some people say it’s a cop out, but I really don’t think it’s a fair argument for then us to continue to use these minerals in our daily lives and expect someone else to deal with it – and especially people who don’t the expertise, don’t have the regulatory climate, and don’t have leaders that care about the environment,” he said.

The plan passed committee on a party line vote. It passed a Senate committee earlier this month. It will likely be debated in the full Assembly on Thursday.

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