Despite the death of a former mining bill amid environmental concerns, Wisconsin’s Senate Committee on Mining held an informational hearing on the topic Tuesday.
The five-hour meeting was intended to educate the committee of seven senators and the general public about current mining laws and the history of mining in the state of Wisconsin, according to Senator Jim Holperin, D-Conover, a member of the committee.
Tom Evans, assistant director of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, began his testimony by discussing the history of mining in great detail. He said that mining requires specific regulation in order to prevent the “unreasonable degradation” of Wisconsin’s natural resources.
Evans added that one goal of the hearings should be to define what “unreasonable” means in terms of loss of natural resources. He stressed the importance of responsible mining.
He also said that so many minerals are used day-to-day, and it is important to take a look at what could be done to better conserve them.
“Each person uses 3,700 pounds of minerals per year,” Evans said. “Regulation of the metallic mining industry is important.”
The other speakers were Rebecca Graser, program manager of regulatory affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers in Wisconsin, and Ann Coakley, director of the Bureau of Waste and Materials Management within the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, opened the meeting and said since the legislators are not in session, this hearing will be a great opportunity to better understand current mining laws and give the general public a chance to learn as well.
Cullen also mentioned that it is important to note that there are other governmental entities that play a role in the issuing of a mining permit.
According to Holperin, a mining bill has yet to be written.
“It is too premature for legislation to be written,” Holperin said. “We as legislators need the briefing in order to refresh ourselves before we reconvene in January.”
Holperin said Tuesday’s hearing was a good start as far as educating the legislators about the current mining status. He also pointed out it is important for citizens to understand the state is not the only force in issuing mining permits.
Native tribes may play a role in mining permits because even if the state grants the permit, the tribes can still intercede if it is on their land.
“Today’s hearing was a solid update on the current mining law, and a thorough, comprehensive review of mining as a whole,” Holperin said. “This will be helpful for when we meet again in January to create new mining legislature. This way we can write a law that will be more acceptable and not get shot down the second time around.”
The first mining bill was rejected by the Wisconsin Senate March 6 this year.
Two more informational mining hearings are scheduled, one Thursday at 10 a.m. in Room 411 South in the Capitol, and the next hearing is the following Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the same location.