Wisconsin Conservative Congress majorities oppose taconite mine

Wisconsin Gazette

Final results from 71 of 72 counties participating in the annual Wisconsin Conservation Congress spring hearings held on April 14 demonstrate significant statewide support for mining safeguards, according to a release from the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter.

The group reported on April 28 that overwhelming majorities supported resolutions opposing the proposed taconite mine in the Penokee Range, as well as for the repeal of 2013 Act 1 and to direct the state Department of Natural Resources to establish stronger air standards for frac sand mining to protect public health.

The three resolutions were approved by nearly or greater than 2 to 1 margins across the state.

The resolution opposing development of the proposed massive open pit iron mine in the Penokee Hills was approved in 28 of 32 counties where introduced, with a total vote count of 1,485 for and 732 against or 67 percent approval.

The resolution supporting the repeal of 2013 Act 1, the enabling legislation that removed many of the state’s mining protections, was approved in 19 of 24 counties, with a vote count of 1,138 in favor and 606 against or 65 percent approval.

The resolution directing the DNR to regulate cancer-causing frac sand mining dust (silica) to protect public health was approved in 23 of 25 counties, with a vote count of 1,190 in favor and 533 against or 69 percent approval.

Ashland and Iron county residents — home to the proposed Gogebic Taconite open pit iron mine – supported both the resolution to oppose the proposed mine and the resolution to repeal 2013 Act 1, the new iron mining law.

In addition, sevent of eight counties voted by a 73 percent majority to direct the DNR to update the silica sand mining study released in 2012. That study did not account for long-term and cumulative impacts from the exploding frac sand mining industry. 

“Just because Ashland County residents want jobs, that doesn’t mean we’re willing to give up our clean water, clean air, and quality of life. The state has not properly engaged the residents of Northern Wisconsin to find out what we want,” Michelle Heglund, who introduced for the resolution in Ashland County, stated in a news release.

“I think of Wisconsin as a conservation state, with a proud history of doing the right things to conserve its land, its water and its beauty. So when I look for the balance on one side I see an out of state mining corporation with enough money to write laws in this state, offering a few jobs for 40 years with a ton of pollution. On the other side I see pristine wild land with clear clean water feeding into the largest and cleanliest of the Great Lakes. A land that has sustained the Chippewa people for thousands of years. I agree with many in Wisconsin,” Cherie Barnes, a retired truck driver, said when she introduced the resolution in Rock County.

“The people have spoken and the results demonstrate overwhelming opposition to open pit iron mining and support for public health protections for sand mining. Support for repealing Gogebic Taconite’s iron mining law is strong and growing. The Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin state Legislature should heed these results and work to meet the public’s expectation that our natural resources and public health will be protected” added Dave Blouin, state mining chair for the Sierra Club.

Madison Action for Mining Alternatives, the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter worked together to develop the resolutions at the April 14 hearings.