A proposed mining project in northern Wisconsin drew interest of those in the southwest corner of the state on Saturday. State Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) led a public forum, along with Democratic State Senators Tim Cullen (Janesville) and Robert Jauch (Poplar) at the Markee Pioneer Student Center on the UW-Platteville campus. The senators took public comments from 10 a.m. until about 2 p.m. in regard to the mining bill, which was just passed by the State Assembly and will be debated by the State Senate. The bill would streamline the process for opening an iron mine in the northern part of the state.
"This is an opportunity to show the State of Wisconsin what real Democracy looks like in southwestern Wisconsin," said Schultz, noting he was hoping to learn things that could be added to the draft of the bill.
"In spite of all of the cynicism that exists today, this really is your state and it is supposed to be your state legislature, so we are trying to make sure that is still what happens," Cullen told the audience that numbered more than 100.
"We are for jobs. We are for mining, but we are for doing it responsibly and that's what this is about," said Schultz.
Following passage of the Assembly bill, the Senate Select Committee on Mining was formed to research the issue. That committee was subsequently dissolved by Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who had originally formed the committee. That committee was scheduled to meet last Friday at UW-Platteville before it was dissolved. Regardless of that committee, Schultz felt it was important to take public comments on the proposed legislation in this part of the state. As one local citizen noted, "This law will be about mining in the state of Wisconsin. This is important to all of us."
Among the concerns of those who spoke during the public forum were health concerns, the impact on tourism in the area, environmental concerns, and others. "You must get this right the first time, because for us, there is no second time," said one citizen.
A majority of the people who spoke during the forum were against the mining bill.
The Assembly bill, in its current form, does not seem to have enough votes to pass the Senate. With a 17-16 Republican majority in the Senate, Schultz's vote is key, and he has said he will not support the bill in its current form.
• The Wisconsin State Journal contributed to this article.