On Monday, October 1, more than 50 protesters gathered to greet attendees to a Frac Sand conference in Brooklyn Park, MN, a Twin Cities suburb. They included 35 from Winona, right across the Mississippi from Wisconsin, which has had an active frac sand protest movement. Seven protesters were arrested for climbing on top of a charter bus designated to transport conference attendees.
The recently formed Wisconsin Senate Select Committee on Mining held three hearings on current mining law. Much of the focus, as Rebecca Kemble reports for the Progressive, was on timelines for the permitting process.
"Republican legislators pushing AB 426 last session claimed that mining companies needed better timelines and more certainty in the permitting process in order to invest in mining activities in Wisconsin," writes Kemble.
Madison's Capital Times newspaper ran an article on August 8 about UW-Madison taking steps to re-start a series of decompression sickness studies using sheep after new legislation exempted the university from state animal cruelty statutes. The move is being condemned by WNPJ member group Alliance for Animals.
WNPJ member group Soul of the Kickapoo has been fighting the Badger Coulee high-voltage power line proposal, which intends to run a 345 kV transmission line from Lacrosse to Madison, costing ratepayers $340 million. The line is part of $9 billion in planned power lines being pushed by American Transmission Company, a for-profit utility company, to open up markets in the east for electricity from dirty coal-fired power plants in the Dakotas. The total cost is enough to buy over a million 4kV solar systems for Wisconsin homes to make them mostly energy self-sufficient.
Mining activist and UW-LaCrosse emeritus professor Al Gedicks warns in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that weakening Wisconsin's mining regulations has been moved to the top of Governor Walker's agenda. At the same time, a report just released by the National Wildlife Federation points to Wisconsin's mining laws as a model for other states to follow. Under Wisconsin's decades-old "Prove it First" law, potential miners cannot receive a state permit until they have provided an example of a metallic sulfide mine in the United States or Canada that has not polluted surface or groundwaters during or after mining. Gedicks writes: "So far, the industry has not been able to find a single example where they have mined without polluting water." Read more... (Photo: Sulfide mining runoff in Sudbury, Ontario.)
|Wisconsin's sand-mining and processing industry is now undergoing explosive growth due to the use of Wisconsin sand by natural gas producers for hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."|
"Frac-sand" mining, currently unregulated by the state, is the subject of a new documentary short, "Sand Land." A related article by the documentary's producers notes that "Frac sand, which consists of fine-grained sillica, can cause the respiratory illness, silicosis. Washing the frac sand in preparation for the fracking process is also a water intensive process, particularly threatening in the age of increasing water scarcity in the United States and around the world." Read more...
"Gogebic Taconite may have temporarily abandoned its proposed open pit iron mine at the pristine headwaters of the Bad River, but company spokesman Bob Seitz says the firm still wants Wisconsin’s mining law changed. Efforts are under way to develop a new 'consensus' on legislation that failed to pass the Senate in the last session," write Al Gedicks of WNPJ member group Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and Eric Hansen.
"When Wisconsinites last saw this 'consensus' approach to mining legislation, it resulted in regulations allowing groundwater contamination beneath and around mine sites," they warn. "Kennecott then obtained a permit for its Flambeau open pit copper and gold mine at Ladysmith in the early 1990s. Kennecott’s own monitoring wells now show the groundwater there is highly polluted with sulfates and various metals." Read the whole article on the Capital Times website...