Wisconsin lawmakers voted to ease restrictions on iron-ore production Wednesday, as the state looks to join a resurgent mining industry in the upper Midwest.
Mining legislation championed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, won approval in the state Senate, and passage is all but assured in the House. It passed the Senate by one vote, splitting mostly along party lines.
It will streamline the permitting process and ease protections on wetlands, ending a lengthy fight over reopening Wisconsin to mining after decades of little activity.
But the proposal comes as analysts warn of a glut in iron-ore supplies, and some mining companies in the region are looking to other metals, such as copper and nickel.
Wisconsin hasn’t had iron-ore mining since the early 1980s and has had tight restrictions on new mines since the late 1990s. Mr. Walker and GOP legislators failed to pass a similar bill last year in the Senate in a close vote, but Republicans have a larger majority this time, which helped clear the way for passage.
The bill is tied to a mine proposed in northwest Wisconsin by Gogebic Taconite, a division of the closely held Cline Group. Supporters say it would bring jobs and help boost manufacturing, while still protecting the environment. Lawmakers who oppose the bill say it is deeply flawed, allowing miners to fill in wetlands as a way to hold down costs. They also expect a lengthy legal challenge to the bill.
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