Wisconsin has an incredible opportunity to create thousands of family-supporting jobs if a proposed iron mine is allowed to move forward in Northern Wisconsin. In order to capture this multi-generational job creation project, the Legislature must pass Assembly Bill 426 to create an iron mining law.
Building the mine would involve a $1.5 billion investment in our state, and would transform Northern Wisconsin into an economic engine for generations to come.
A recent economic study found that building the mine would result in more than 2,000 construction jobs over a two-year period. Once the mine is built, there would be about 700 mining jobs initially, and that number would grow to 1,400 jobs when the mine hits peak production.
The mining jobs are expected to pay a family-supporting wage of $60,000 per year, with total compensation near $83,000 with benefits included.
The positive economic impact of the mine won’t be limited to the Northwoods – it will ripple throughout Wisconsin. In addition to the mining jobs, 4,200 jobs would be created to support the mine, including mining equipment manufacturers and their suppliers throughout the Milwaukee area.
Providing a stable market for the mining equipment made by companies like P&H Mining and Caterpillar will help sustain manufacturing in our state.
Opening the iron mine would also generate a significant stream of new tax revenue. A recent study found the first 35 years of mining would generate $1.4 billion in state and local taxes to help balance our budget and pay for critical services like schools, roads and public safety.
The tremendous job, economic and tax benefits of the mine can be achieved while protecting the environment.
Iron mining has a much smaller environmental footprint than other types of mines. In fact, it has been done safely by our neighbors in Minnesota and Michigan for over one-hundred years. More than 37,000 jobs result from the eight iron mines in those states – it’s time for Wisconsin to get in on this economic action.
Iron mining has also been done safely right here in Wisconsin. Earlier this year, the Wisconsin DNR certified the closure of a former iron mine near Black River Falls as having fully complied with all environmental regulations.
That former iron mine is now Lake Wazee, a deep freshwater lake with a public swimming beach and county park. The lake is a destination for many tourism activities, including fishing and scuba diving.
Despite Lake Wazee’s real-world proof that iron mining can be done safely in Wisconsin, a handful of environmental groups portray Assembly Bill 426 as a choice between jobs and a clean environment. In reality, the iron mining bill offers both.
Contrary to the outrageous claims and distortions, the mining bill does not change any air or water quality standards. Rather, the bill simply establishes a procedure for a mining company to request permits – those permits will require approval of environmental regulators like the DNR and U.S. EPA.
Although wetlands will be impacted by the mining process, the bill requires those impacts to be mitigated by creating additional wetlands. It is difficult to understand how environmental groups can characterize an increase in wetland acreage as a bad outcome. Perhaps their unfounded and inflammatory comments are a means to disguise their opposition to any mining at all– no matter how safe it is.
The voting public understands we can achieve mining jobs and environmental protection at the same time. A poll done earlier this year found two-to-one public support for the mine, even after hearing exaggerated negative statements about environmental impacts. Support was particularly strong among hunters and anglers, with roughly 70 percent support among both groups.
The proposed mine is truly a once in a lifetime economic opportunity for our state. If allowed to move forward, the mine will create thousands of jobs, generate billions in new tax revenue, and will do so while protecting our natural resources.
The mine is a win for jobs, a win for taxpayers, and a win for the environment.