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Mining WI Senate vote (copy)

In this September 1996 file photo, the Flambeau open pit copper mine is viewed in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. 

In December 2017, the state’s duly elected Legislature passed Act 134 and took a stand for responsible development across the state, and particularly northern Wisconsin. Many local governments across northern Wisconsin have similarly taken a stand, reviewing the law and seeing that they have the option to pursue hundreds of jobs with responsible partners — on their own terms in ways that protect their communities and environment.

There have been a lot of misconceptions about this bill, but most important to recognize is that it maintains stringent environmental standards that Wisconsinites hold dear.

When people talk about their concerns about mining, they often talk about decades-old examples of an industry that has since greatly benefited from advancements in technology. Unfortunately, there are a number of examples of industries that did not have the same environmental standards that they have today. Modern mining is very different. Companies work with local communities to ensure safe and environmentally sound resource development, which takes years of engineering and environmental studies before the construction of a mine begins.

The mining industry has updated its practices and technology, and our laws have also been updated over time. Act 134 maintained strong environmental standards without preempting local regulations or adding exemptions to environmental standards.

If one looks just across the border in Michigan, a prime example of thoughtful, insightful, and well-regulated mining is occurring right now.The Eagle Mine, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a prime example of how mining can — and does — get done correctly in North America. Careful planning and a thorough permitting process set the table for success with that venture. The mine has been in business for more than four years without a single environmental mishap. The Eagle Mine has been a smart and engaging part of its community, and has laid the groundwork for what the mining industry can be throughout the Midwest.

The permitting and regulatory process is an instrumental cog in ensuring that responsible resource development is allowed to occur, and that the economy and the environment can work together.

Those against mining are quick to highlight detrimental accidents that have happened in other countries, yet they keep out one significant fact. That simple fact is that the permitting and regulatory processes in lands abroad are not nearly as stringent as those in the United States.

With that in mind, the process for permitting in Wisconsin is held to one of the highest standards in the nation to ensure that the environment is well protected, and that everyone in a community affected by potential mining has a say in the process.

It is time for communities to come together and learn about mining as it is today, and to see that companies that wish to bring financial independence to communities have an opportunity to make their case to local communities.

Gone are the days of lands forgotten when a mine is developed, worked and the land reclaimed. Throughout the pre-approval and permitting process, detailed reclamation plans are developed and approved by the communities a potential mine would be developed in. Communities have the ability to be better off before, during and after a mine exists.

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Wisconsin has the ability to lead on mining in the 21st century. It is time to showcase that the economy and the environment are meant to work together.

For more information on mining from regulations to the life cycle of a mine, please visit truthaboutmining.org.

Nathan Conrad is the executive director of the Natural Resources Development Association.

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