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Gogebic Taconite affirms return to Wisconsin if mining bill passes


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Gogebic Taconite said today that it would return to Wisconsin and build an iron ore mine near Hurley, if legislators would relax the state’s regulations on mining.

The company left the state last spring, after the Senate voted down a package which set a deadline to approve a state permit, eased environmental restrictions, and banned certain legal challenges.

Last week, majority Republicans in both houses offered a similar package – plus the relaxing of wetland requirements – in the name of creating jobs. And Gogebic Taconite lobbyist Bob Seitz said many of those jobs would be filled by Wisconsin residents. He rebuffed a claim by one Democrat that most of the workers would be experienced miners from Minnesota and Michigan.

Earlier Wednesday, legislative leaders said the final package would definitely be different than it is now – and the GOP might consider some of items in an alternative bill proposed by Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen.

Among other things, his bill would lengthen the permit approval deadline by the proposed 480 days, and would not relax environmental laws. If the package is favorable to Gogebic, Seitz said work would begin as soon as Governor Scott Walker signs the bill – and at the point, the company would spill out its plans in detail.

Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams said the mine would be highly-efficient, and would be built with workers from all parts of the state.

Hurley restaurant owner Gary Pelkola pleaded with lawmakers to pass the bill – because the area needs the jobs so badly. But Mick Isham, chairman of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, again expressed environmental concerns. And he said lawmakers should have consulted with tribes as they drew up the bill.