Protesters push against a contentious mining bill that was sent back from the Senate Tuesday for further consideration at a January rally. The bill would streamline the mining process in Wisconsin, but opponents have contended the legislation would be harmful for the environment.[/media-credit]

A mining firm abolished its $1.5 billion mining project in Iron and Ashland counties late Tuesday night after frustration with the Senate’s rejection of a mining bill that would streamline regulations.

Gogebic Taconite, LLC President Bill Williams issued a statement after the Senate session Tuesday that said GTAC is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine.

The statement thanked the individuals who supported the company’s efforts, but said the company could not justify moving forward.

The statement said the Senate’s rejection of the mining reforms sends a “clear message” that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining.

“So be it,” Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison said in reaction to the news. “I think if we’re going to pass a mining bill, we have a long way to go. We didn’t have a good mining bill in the first place. It takes the pressure of people trying to do it the right way.”

The news came hours after legislators voted to send a contentious bill that would streamline the mining process in Wisconsin back to the Organization Committee, after rejecting several proposed amendments to the bill and failing to find a compromise.

Fighting back tears throughout his testimony, Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said he was disappointed by the body’s decision not to add his amendment to the bill.

“Many have been conflicted in northern Wisconsin,” Jauch said. “There are those who want the mine and economic improvement but do not want to see the process suppress the DNR’s ability to define the quality of life in the state.”

Jauch said all three proposals turned down by the Senate would have promoted bipartisan compromise, streamlined the mining process and protected the public voice.

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, who helped Jauch form the amendments, was also persistent in saying that a bipartisan compromise could be reached on the bill.

“Today is not the day for this compromise; we just rejected it, but my door remains open,” Schultz said. “But it is my hope that these discussions will continue and that we will be able to bring a compromise bill to Wisconsin.”

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, expressed further frustrations with the bill and said the Senate is sending back a bill that had the ability to pass.

Cullen then laid out two things he said still needed to happen before the bill went through.

“First we need to sit down with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Indians,” Cullen said. “There are other players in this besides us. As we go forward, and I hope we do, the Bad River Band should be an integral part of the discussion. This is their land we’re talking about.”

Cullen said the second thing that still needed to happen is legislators from both bodies need to go to Mellen, Wis., and talk to the people of the city near the proposed project.

He added any legislator should be willing to live near the proposed mine if they vote for this bill.