MMAC testifies on behalf of mining bill

The positive economic impact of opening Wisconsin’s iron range to mining would be felt in a substantial way in Milwaukee, according to testimony before the state Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Small Business by Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) president Tim Sheehy.
The committee held a public hearing on the bill this morning at State Fair Park in West Allis, even though the site of an iron mine proposed by Gogebic Taconite is in the Penokee Hills in northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior.
“It’s going to take Milwaukee steel and Milwaukee shovels made by Milwaukee workers to mine northern Wisconsin iron,” Sheehy said. “Reforming our laws to allow environmentally sound mining in Iron County will have a direct impact on jobs and economic development in the metro Milwaukee region.   This is an opportunity the entire state cannot afford to pass up.”
With the presence of Caterpillar Inc.’s world mining division in Oak Creek and South Milwaukee and Joy Global Inc. in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee region is the world leader in the manufacturing of mining equipment. Mining equipment manufacturing directly employs 2,933 workers in metro Milwaukee with a total payroll of $218 million, Sheehy said.  In addition, area supply chain jobs supporting mining equipment manufacturing generate another $486 million for the region’s economy, Sheehy said.
“If Wisconsin is truly going to be open for business, we need to be open to the mining business.  This bill is the single most significant piece of job creation legislation lawmakers will address this session,” Sheehy said. “Now more than ever, our economy needs the boost Iron County miners using tools and equipment manufactured in Milwaukee will give it.”
The 183-page bill would create new statutes to govern ferrous (iron) mining, which is currently regulated in the same manner as non-ferrous (non-iron minerals like gold or copper) mining. The bill would streamline the process needed to gain a permit to build the mine.
Critics say the mine would endanger the natural resources and the tourism of northern Wisconsin. Proponents say the mine would bring much-needed jobs to the region.
Environmental advocate James Rowen criticized the decision to conduct the meeting in southeastern Wisconsin. “This would be like scheduling a hearing on Milwaukee’s streetcar plan in Ashland or a session on the zoo interchange in Superior,” Rowen wrote in his blog.
Stacy Craig from Mason, Wis., testified that today’s hearing was held about 350 miles from the site of the proposed mine.
“This meeting is inaccessible for most people I know. My family, colleagues, even my community pitched in and changed their schedules so I can be here. I am representing all of their voices today, because this bill is in no way acceptable. This bill takes away our rights to have processes in place to protect our communities from special interests. I will not sit back and watch this. I am grateful for the chance to be here today to tell legislators that this is bad news for Wisconsin,” Craig said.

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