Two Takes On Repealing Wisconsin’s Mining Moratorium

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
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)

The state Assembly is expected to vote Thursday on a plan to lift the moratorium on sulfide mining in Wisconsin. We talk with the bill’s author, Rep. Rob Hutton, about why he says it’s time to end the ban. We also chat with the author of the decades-old moratorium, former Rep. Spencer Black.

Currently, companies that wish to mine sulfide ores, such as copper, zinc or gold, must show that they can operate for 10 years and be closed for another 10 without polluting the groundwater or surface water. The bill passed the Legislature with near unanimous support in 1998 and was signed into law by Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Supporters of repealing the ban insist that Wisconsin already has comprehensive mining laws on the books and that the state needs to realize the economic potential.

“Wisconsin is uniquely equipped to supply precious minerals to the world,” said Hutton in a statement. “Encouraging significant investments in safe mining will create a new economic environment in northern Wisconsin, resulting in family supporting jobs throughout our entire state.”

In a recent column, Black wrote that his “Prove It First” law has been a reasonable, sensible approach to protecting the environment.

“Doesn’t it make sense to require a mining company to show at least one other sulfide ore mine anywhere in North America that has operated and closed without water pollution before we let them threaten our waters?”

A Senate version of the moratorium repeal passed a committee in early October.

Should lawmakers roll back the moratorium on sulfide mining or keep it in place? Is the ban necessary to protect Wisconsin’s environment or does it hinder economic growth? Join the conversation at 1-800-642-1234 or You can also tweet us @wprmornings or post on the Ideas Network Facebook page.

Episode Credits

  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Bill Martens Producer
  • Rob Hutton Guest
  • Spencer Black Guest