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Lobbyist expects mining bill to pass

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A worker drives a skip loader while working at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county
A worker drives a skip loader while working at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county

MADISON (WSAU)   A lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite says he believes there are enough votes in the state Legislature to pass mining incentives that were defeated in March. Bob Seitz tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the mining firm is taking a “wait-and-see attitude” about re-instating a project it scrapped after the last mining bill was voted down.

At a hearing last week, Tim Sullivan of the state’s Mining Association said a new bill needs to be different from the previous package – which Democrats said would have slashed environmental protections and reduced public input. Sullivan says federal officials could raise objections to whatever the state does – and it might take a mining company five years or more to get a required state permit. But Gogebic’s lobbyist says it shouldn’t take that long – and Seitz says the political landscape has changed enough to get it done.

Last week Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst was named to chair the Senate’s mining panel. Tiffany was a strong supporter of last spring’s Assembly package, which was later watered down in the Senate. Gogebic started planning for the largest mine in state history – a $1.5-billion dollar iron ore mine stretching along parts of Ashland and Iron counties. But the firm dropped the project after the Senate’s actions in March. Seitz says Gogebic has been watching the latest developments.

Governor Scott Walker says that if a bill could pass early next year, Gogebic could get started soon after. Seitz says an early approval could let Gogebic get data on wetlands in its project area when water levels are high in the spring.

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