Minn. Projects Discussed in Wis. Mining Hearing
Posted at: 09/18/2012 4:40 PM
| Updated at: 09/18/2012 11:05 PM
By: Jon Ellis
Wisconsin lawmakers asked questions about several northern Minnesota mining projects during the first meeting of the Wisconsin Senate Select Committee on Mining Tuesday in Madison.
The timeline for Minnesota mining project applications was one of the main topics during the hearing. Among other things, the committee is considering whether Wisconsin should set a deadline for regulators to approve mining projects.
Rebecca Graser, the Wisconsin Program Manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, said four years is typical for the approval process, though she cited Polymet as an outlier. The project has been in the application stage for nine years. Graser said some projects have been approved in two and a half years.
When questioned whether it's possible to set a two and a half-year timeframe for applications, Graser responded, "It could be possible, but it would be more of a perfect world scenario where the project proponent came forward, knew exactly what they wanted to do, it was fortunately the best option for the best option for that site, they had very few environmental consequences, they have all the information up front, they've got good studies with sound data."
Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) then asked, "Does all that ever happen?"
"The perfect storm typically does not happen," Graser responded.
Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), who sits on the committee, said based on the testimony he's heard, he believes it would be unrealistic for the state to say how long the process should take due to the number of federal agencies involved. Graser agreed with a comment from Jauch that the amount of time it takes to get the application approved is the amount of time it takes to get it right.
The mining debate began when Gogebic Taconite proposed a mine in Ashland and Iron counties. The company pulled its application in March after a Republican mining bill failed, but legislators continue to debate mining laws with hopes of attracting a new project.
The Senate Select Committee on Mining has more hearings scheduled for this Thursday and next Tuesday.