Jobs are the Casualty of Mining Bill Defeat

Posted on March 28, 2012 by Minerals Make Life

Vast mineral resources in Wisconsin’s backyard—including iron deposits among the largest in the world—could translate into thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in taxes from minerals mining and exploration. Yet the state is not reaping the same economic benefits as neighboring states, largely due to a cumbersome and uncertain permitting process and a lack of legislative support.

Earlier this month, Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz, along with all 16 Wisconsin Senate Democrats, voted against a bill that would have enacted a more efficient mining permitting process without compromising air- or water-quality standards. Shortly following the 17-16 vote, Gogebic Taconite announced that it would halt investment in an iron ore mine in Wisconsin’s Ashland and Iron counties—a project that would have been the state’s largest privately-funded economic development project.

The resulting loss of mining investment—systemic of a larger, national issue that has seen global investment fall from 21 percent in 1993 to 8 percent today—is a tremendous blow to Wisconsin’s economic recovery. Wisconsin will forgo a $1.5 billion investment in our state—an investment that could’ve helped fund schools, roads and other vital services we use each and every day. Gone is an opportunity to create 3,175 jobs statewide, including 700 mining jobs paying an average of $82,000 per worker.

In Minnesota and Michigan, mining is driving more than $12 billion a year to each state’s economy. Wisconsin could enjoy similar economic benefits with the right policies enacted to support minerals mining. As state Sen. Frank Lasee noted in a recent op-ed, “Each mining job will create two to three jobs in other industries in northern Wisconsin …Wisconsin's economy must continue to grow. It is important for our state to allow iron mining.”

We often look for creative ways to build economic vitality in Wisconsin and across the nation, but the answer is right underneath us: mining. It is imperative that we support and develop the legislative framework at state and federal levels that enable the growth of domestic minerals mining, which will help create jobs and stimulate economic growth. Hopefully the new Wisconsin Legislature that convenes in January of 2013 will include a majority that embrace mining reform and the economic growth and job creation that will follow.

Scott Manley is director of energy and environmental policy for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

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