Twenty years ago the Wisconsin Legislature passed the “Prove it First” mining bill by an overwhelming majority. The bill stated that a mine could not be built in sulfide rock deposits until an example was found of a sulfide mine that had operated successfully without harming nearby streams and lakes.
Mining in sulfide deposits is done primarily for nickel, copper or gold. If at any point in the mining process the sulfide deposits are exposed to water, sulfuric acid will result. The sulfuric acid will leach from the mine until the sulfur deposits are used up; potentially for thousands of years. There are former trout streams in West Virginia that have been dead for over 100 years because of acid drainage from mines.
SB 395 and AB 499 would repeal the “Prove it First” mining bill. Proponents argue that the bill is no longer necessary because of improved technology and that sulfide mining would produce thousands of high paying jobs, primarily in northern Wisconsin. In reality modern mining equipment is so large and sophisticated that most employees will come with the company, they will not be from Wisconsin.
Sulfide mining would make people far away from Wisconsin very wealthy, but their prosperity would threaten everyone else’s. Today almost all mining corporations are not only out of state, but out of country, their economic gains would not stay in Wisconsin.
Nothing has really changed in the twenty years since the “Prove it First” bill was passed. No sulfide mine has operated without causing environmental damage. What has changed is the political climate. The Koch brothers and other pro-mining forces have flooded Wisconsin with millions of dollars to promote their agenda.
Contact your legislators and urge them to oppose SB 395 and AB 499. Wisconsin’s future environmental health depends on it.
Clean Water Action Council President
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