Mining bill compromise hits snag in Senate

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A compromise to keep most of the public land open near a proposed mining site hit a hang-up Tuesday in the Senate.

The state Senate debated an amendment that would allow people to use much of the forest near the Gogebic Taconite site in Ashland, though land immediately near the mining equipment would be closed.

The original bill would close all 3,500 acres to the public.

The bill is eventually expected to pass but there was a debate Tuesday on who would make the decision on the land itself, the Department of Natural Resources or the DNR Board.

“We ought to have the decisions on how much more land should be closed made in public, made by the DNR board, and be able to be observed and evaluated by the people of Wisconsin,” Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said.

“At some point in this world of ours, we have got to get beyond just choosing up sides. We have to take a leap of faith with one another and we’ve been able to do that in Wisconsin,” Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said.

Gogebic Taconite wants to dig a 4.5 mile long iron mine in the Penkoee Hills. The company promised it will create hundreds of jobs, but opponents are concerned about the pollution.

The proposal to close part of the land to the public came after the company said it was concerned about safety of its workers after protesters were videotaped confronting them.