Position on Mining Legislation
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network opposes any new mining legislation that weakens environmental protections or reduces opportunities for citizen comment or legal redress.
Current mining law balances the needs of mining companies against the public interest in clean air and water. It recognizes that mining inevitably leads to pollution and destruction of natural areas, yet offers reasonable environmental protection if the DNR is vigilant, and has sufficient staff, time, and information. Any compromise of these elements would constitute a give-away of our natural heritage and our civic legacy.
Adopted by LWV Ashland-Bayfield Counties board of directors August 15, 2011; recommended by LWVWI Education Network Legislative Committee August 16, 2011; adopted by LWVWI Education Network board of directors August 19, 2011.
This is a map of the silica sand deposits in Wisconsin. My farm and house are in the central part of the red blob covering the western part of the state. The photo below is of the closest sand mine to me, outside of Menomonie. Imagine this part of the state covered with these. Sand mining is suddenly a big concerin in Western Wisconsin, since proposed mines are cropping up at an alarming rate. Projections are that western Wisconsin will have over 100 frac sand mines in the next two years.
Clearly some frac sand mining is going to take place in Wisconsin - but there's a strong grassroots interest in having reasonable regulations on these mines, and in the current political state of Wisconsin, environment has not been a high priority of our government.
We are going to try to be a clearing house for information on sand mining in the state, since this is a high-priority issue, and as with many of the current environmental concerns in the state, it's getting short shrift and once the damage is done it will be very hard or impossible to recover.
ACTION ALERT - Contact Your Representatives
Wisconsin faces a number of threats to our water, air, and culture from mining. WNPJ played a pivotal role in defeating an attempt to rewrite the state's mining law last spring to facilitate a massive open-pit iron mine. But legislators from both parties are working to draft a compromise mining bill that could significantly reduce current environmental protections and allow new mining that wouldn't otherwise take place. Republicans want to simply re-introduce AB426, the previous failed bill. Gogebic Taconite, the mining company owned by coal magnate Chris Cline, which pushed for the first bill, has said that if the law changes they would again pursue their proposed 22-mile-long Penokee Mine. The mine would be near the headwaters of the Tyler Forks and Bad Rivers, upstream of the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation and the Kakagon Sloughs, the largest and ecologically richest wetlands complex on Lake Superior.
Mining companies are also interested in sulfide deposits in Oneida County, along the Michigan border, and near Wausau. These projects recently suffered setbacks, but Wisconsin's unique mining moratorium law, which has kept out dangerous sulfide mining since 1998, is being targeted by the mining industry for repeal in the upcoming mining bill.
In western and central Wisconsin Frac Sand mining is turning much of our rural countryside into quarry pits, contaminating the air with silica dust and pumping out massive amounts of groundwater, to provide a product necessary for the dangerous fossil fuel extraction process called hydrofracking. A petition by ten citizens, supported by over 80 medical professionals, asking the DNR to regulate silica dust from sand operations as a hazardous air pollutant was recently rejected by the agency, despite silica dust being a known to cause lung cancer and silicosis. While some communities have passed moratoriums on new sand mining, the number of mines more than doubled between the summers of 2011 and 2012, from 41 to 87.
Mining companies and their supporters claim that mining is good for economic development, but real-world data on mining economies paints a different picture. In addition to perpetual environmental problems, mining damages the cultural lifeways and livelihoods of indigenous people. In Wisconsin, Native American tribes were instrumental in fighting off sulfide mining in Wisconsin and passing the state's landmark mining moratorium law in 1998. They have taken an out-front position against the proposed Penokee Mine. Follow the links below for more information on mining in the state.