HURLEY, Wis (WSAU) About 400 people attended the state Assembly’s public hearing in Hurley yesterday on what should be included in a bill to speed up the state’s approval for mining permits. Jobs committee chairwoman Mary Williams of Medford said the goal is to ensure that mining is economical, while protecting the environment. And she said the measure would reflect the differences between iron ore mining and other types.
The hearing mostly spelled out the pros-and-cons of Gogebic Taconite’s plan to build the state’s largest mine ever – a one-and-a-half billion dollar iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Bill Williams, the president of Gogebic Taconite, spent about 45 minutes testifying and answering lawmakers’ questions. He repeated that his firm can mine without hurting the area’s water quality – a concern expressed by Bad River tribal council chairman Mike Wiggins.
Williams said steel from the proposed mine would be used in cars, as well as a host of products made in Wisconsin.
Iron County officials said they’ve lost about 6,000 residents in recent decades due to a lack of jobs. And County Board vice-chair Tom Innes told lawmakers to quote, “quit this bickering” and get the mining project done. Tim Sullivan of the Wisconsin Mining Association said it would take about three years to construct the mine, and the first of 700 permanent jobs would begin in about five years. Sullivan called the area the “richest body of iron ore in the world,” and he said it’s the easiest to mine from an environmental standpoint.