Battle's just beginning over proposed open pit iron ore mine | WisCommunity

Battle's just beginning over proposed open pit iron ore mine

Gogebic Taconite spent about $115,000 in the last six months to lobby on behalf of its proposed open pit iron ore mine on the Penokee range in Ashland and Iron Counties.

State Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), who represents the area, says it was "a complete waste of money," according to this Ashland Current article by Bill Lueders.

Jauch argues that Gogebic and its hired allies “ended up alienating the public and confusing the Legislature,” by demanding too much on too short a timeline. He believes the company has “tainted the environment” for future progress, raising the hackles even of local officials who are supportive of the mine.

That may be true --to a point. The company wanted to shorten the approval process for a mine from several years to 300 days, eliminating a lot of environmental protection and citizen input in the process. Gogebic clearly overreached.

But it's no time for opponents of the mine to celebrate and declare victory. This battle has only just begun, as the song goes. There will be a serious push this fall to change the law and clear the way for the mine.

Lueders points out that $115,000 is pocket change to Gogebic Taconite:

While that’s a significant lobbying expense, it amounts to less than 1/100th of 1 percent of the mine’s estimated $1.5 billion cost.

Chris Cline, the CEO of the company who owns Gogebic, who made his money mining coal, lives in a 33,000-square foot Florida oceanfront house. He spills more than $115,000. reported to subscribers:

Gov. Scott Walker, however, says such a measure is a top priority for the fall, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has said Dem Sen. Bob Jauch -- who represents the area -- vowed to work with GOP lawmakers on the legislation if it was moved to the fall floor session.


Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce also lobbied heavily on mining issues, according to the GAB's lobbying database, with 450 hours on mining regulation in the first six months of the year. That represented 21 percent of WMC's total lobbying effort during that span, the largest single topic lobbied by the business group. WMC spent a total of 2,144 hours and $193,244 on lobbying from January through June.


Environmental groups lobbied on mining issues as well, including 163 hours by Clean Wisconsin Inc. -- 12 percent of its total effort -- and nearly 113 hours, or 7 percent of its six-month total, by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. The Sierra Club's state chapter reported three hours lobbied on the topic.


The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin reported five hours lobbied on iron mining law changes, while Moline, Ill. -based Deere & Company spent its entire lobbying effort -- only nine hours and $592 -- on iron mining.


Other groups lobbying on mining issues that didn't hit the minimum reporting threshold included: the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Operating Engineers Local 139, Iron Workers District Council of the North Central States, Construction Business Group, Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

If the winner is going to be the side that spends the most, the mining company wins. There is no way environmentalists and locals can compete financially. And Cline and Co. have been generous with campaign contributions, too, starting with Scott Walker.

So far, no one has seen the legislation that's going to be introduced in the fall. Walker's talking about operating in a bipartisan way (hoping to prevent his recall), and Jauch at least seems open to finding a compromise. Many residents of the area are saying no mine, no way.

This fight's far from over.


August 27, 2011 - 12:54pm