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Tribe opposed to relaxed mining regulations


ASHLAND, Wisc (WSAU)   The Bad River Indian tribe near Ashland came out yesterday against proposed changes in Wisconsin’s mining laws. The tribe’s reservation is downstream from a possible iron ore mining site in Ashland and Iron counties – a place where state legislators hope to pave the way for thousands of new jobs.

But Bad River chairman Mike Wiggins told reporters in Milwaukee that a mine would quote, “obliterate” the river’s headwaters and be too “cataclysmic” for his tribe to endure. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he expected difficult talks with the Bad River tribe. Fitzgerald said a lawsuit would be “inevitable” once the mining bill passes.

The Assembly’s new speaker, Republican Robin Vos, says the details of the new package will come out next week. A public hearing is planned for the end of January, with a vote shortly thereafter. It would then go to the Senate, where Fitzgerald expects a final vote by mid-March.

Vos said the initial Assembly bill would be almost identical to a package that was defeated by the Senate last year – but there would be changes as the process goes along. Fitzgerald said there would be significant changes, but he said the Republican majority has not decided what they’ll be.

Last year’s package was defeated by one vote in the Senate, amid concerns over a relaxation of environmental protections and the elimination of public challenges to D-N-R mining decisions before permits are issued. Gogebic Taconite wanted those changes, and scrapped a proposed iron ore mine when they didn’t get them. Now, the G-O-P hopes to get the company to revive the project.