State Republican: Must close mine forest for safety

Opponents say bill is an overreaction

A Republican lawmaker said the Legislature must close the woods around a northern Wisconsin mine site to protect miners and public workers from protesters.

Sen. Tom Tiffany has proposed a bill that would close around 4,000 acres in the Penokee Hills while Gogebic Taconite is exploring digging a iron mine there. The land around the site is part of the state managed forest program, which ensures it remains open for recreation.

Tiffany kicked off a public hearing on the bill in front of the Senate mining committee on Wednesday by showing a video recording of protesters accosting mine workers at the site in June. He said mine workers and public workers doing testing on the mine’s environmental impact deserve to be safe.

Opponents said the bill is an overreaction.

“This may upset a bunch of hunters, which will in fact cause more opposition to the mine just based on the way it’s worded,” said George Meyer with the Wis. Wildlife Federation.

“What we want is simple separation; for our people to be able to do their work safely, separated from other folks who may have bad intent,” said Bob Seitz, Gogebic Taconite spokesman.

The measure heads to the Senate Mining Committee for a vote Thursday.