It’s no longer a secret: the Republican Party is the party of working and union families in Wisconsin. Last week, Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate carried the day in a 17 to 16 vote rejecting a mining bill that would have brought 3,000 union jobs and a flood of economic activity to the state. The bill also would have been a boon for two of the world’s largest mine equipment manufacturers: Bucyrus and Joy Global (P&H) are both located in southeastern Wisconsin.
All 16 Democrats voted against the bill. Public employee unions AFSCME and WEAC instructed Democrats to vote against the mining bill because its passage would have made their arch-enemy, Governor Scott Walker, look good.
The legislation would have led to a $1.5 billion Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin’s Penokee Range. Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams said his company has pulled the plug on the project and will be moving elsewhere.
Wisconsin, which has a coat of arms on its state flag depicting a miner and the state’s strong mining heritage, now ranks among the bottom 10 places in the world to conduct mining. Since 1997, the Fraser Institute has been conducting an annual survey of metal mining and exploration companies to determine how public policy affects their ability to conduct business in 79 jurisdictions around the world. In their 2010-2011 report, Wisconsin ranks as one of the three worst, below even Madagascar, the Congo, and Venezuela. After the mining bill vote by Democrats, perhaps Wisconsin will come in last in next year’s survey.
The iron deposit in Iron County is one of the largest in the United States, and mining it would not have created environmental concerns. Minnesota, just to the west of Wisconsin, enjoys a thriving mining industry yet has no environmental problems.
Wisconsin’s mining laws were developed to regulate sulfide mining, which utilizes chemicals in its mining and refining processes. The ore deposit in Iron County is a ferrous (i.e., iron) deposit, not a sulfide deposit. The process relies on water and magnets rather than chemicals. Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources would have issued a permit for the mine only after it had confirmed that the mine would operate in an environmentally responsible manner.
Senator Bob Jauch voted against the bill; most of the jobs would have been created in his district. Senators Tim Carpenter, Lena Taylor, and Chris Larson voted no against their unionized constituents who work for the mine equipment manufacturers located in and around their districts. Amazingly, the 16 Democrats voted against the wishes of five major private sector labor unions.