River Alliance Statement on Mining
Several mineral deposits have been discovered all across Wisconsin, including frac sands, iron, zinc, copper, gold, nickel and silver deposits, many of them within the basins of important Wisconsin rivers. In the wake of a very recent proposal to mine for iron ore in the Bad River watershed of Ashland County, in northern Wisconsin, have come proposals to revisit current mining law, and to reopen regulations that govern how land is managed in and around Wisconsin's waters, including wetlands.
These changes could weaken good, long-standing laws governing mining and regulating land development on or near the state's waters. Wisconsin's mining laws have been on the books for decades and were developed with the mining industry at the table. The laws’ essential premise is that if mining can be done responsibly and meets basic environmental requirements, a mining permit will be issued. New mining techniques should easily meet these standards. Weakening the law will likely mean mines will be built at great expense to Wisconsin’s environment.
The economic benefits of mining must be weighed against more sustainable and less ecologically disruptive economic activity. The existing law, which allows mining while safeguarding against long-term, irreparable harm to our resources and to the sustainable economic activities they support (e.g. tourism, forestry, food production, biomass energy production), strikes the appropriate balance.
In addition to weakening mining regulations is a proposal to change rules regulating wetlands and land development near water. These rule changes will make it easier to mine, but they would also corrupt the resource protection these rules provide. These proposed changes threaten rivers and lakes all across the state from all kinds of activities, not just mining. Those rules were revised just five years ago with bipartisan agreement and considerable compromise between conservation and development interests. They too should be left alone.
River Alliance Position on Mining
The River Alliance of Wisconsin does not oppose mining that would follow current environmental regulations. But we oppose any changes to current laws and regulations that cut out public involvement, including limiting citizen suits and contested case hearings. These changes, coupled with attempts to weaken other water regulations, will both hasten mining and destroy river banks, lake shores and wetlands all across the state.