Hundreds piled into a public hearing Wednesday on a new bill affecting a huge iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.
"Many stood against the wall and dozens more stood outside the room in the hallway. Committee aides said about 130 people had registered to speak," Duluth News Tribune reported.
Asked earlier this year to shorten its environmental permitting process from 5 years to 300 days, the state is now taking a second crack at rewriting its mining legislation after draft legislation was scrapped due to public outcry regarding the secretive nature of the process.
The bill, to be introduced by Wisconsin Republicans into the state assembly on Thursday, would streamline the permitting process for Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) to open a new open-pit iron ore mine south of Lake Superior.
On its website GTAC states the deposit contains 1.2 billion tons of iron ore and that the mine will use water and magnets to separate the ore rather than chemicals used in sulphide mines. The company says the mine has a life of 35 years and would employ about 700 workers.
Groups opposed to the mine, which would stretch four miles along Ashland and Iron counties, say the mine would endanger water and air quality and create an ugly scar on the landscape.
Opponents include tribal leaders and environmental heavyweight The Sierra Club.