Wisconsin prepares for mining projects

Repeal of moratorium makes it easier for companies to move forward

FLAMBEAU, Wis. (AP) — Communities in northern Wisconsin are working on their next steps following a recent law change that’ll give companies an easier time moving forward with plans to mine metals.

The repeal of a decades-old sulfide mining moratorium took effect this month, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The moratorium required companies to provide proof of a sulfide mine that had operated for 10 years and been closed for 10 years without doing environmental harm.

Supporters of the repeal contended it’ll allow companies to construct mines that will bring economic prosperity to their regions. Opponents have said they fear mining sulfide minerals will lead to the contamination of surrounding water resources.

Oneida County has hired outside counsel to review its ordinance and see if it would withstand a legal challenge, said Karl Jennrich, the county’s zoning director.

The Wisconsin Counties Association has created a model ordinance and handbook to guide counties through the changes and oversight of potential mining projects, said Dan Bahr, the group’s government affairs associate.

The association is also providing legal assistance to counties to develop similar ordinances. At least 10 counties have contacted the group about crafting rules to regulate metallic mines, Bahr said.

“Counties are wondering what their options are, and one of the things that they got to understand is they have lots of options on how they can handle mining in their county,” said Bahr. “It’s just a matter of the purview of the elected officials and the feedback they’re getting from their constituents.”