Lakehead Constructors welcomes governor to discuss miningAbout half the work Lakehead Constructors in Superior does is related to the mining industry.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
About half the work Lakehead Constructors in Superior does is related to the mining industry.
So, it comes as little surprised the construction company’s president and chief executive officer, Brian Maki, would favor a proposal that would bring mining to northern Wisconsin.
Monday, Maki hosted Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch as the two came to Superior to talk about a mining bill currently before the legislature and the potential impact a proposal by Gogebic Taconite LLC could have on the region and the state.
“The proposed G-Tac (mining) project in northern Wisconsin … the company, the state, this county and the region will see first-hand the positive, significant impact mining would have on creating jobs,” said Maki as he introduced the governor to a group of business and community leaders at Lakehead Constructors on Hill Avenue.
In fact, G-Tac anticipates creating about 3,000 construction jobs in addition to creating 700 direct mining jobs if the company can clear environmental hurdles to obtain air, water and land permits necessary for the operation of its proposed mine and taconite facility.
Wisconsin legislators are currently considering a mining bill to streamline the process and create certainty for the company about the end result as the company contemplates investing $1.5 billion in Wisconsin, one of the largest investments in state history.
The company has leased a 22-mile portion of the ore body that extends from the Gogebic Range in Michigan to Namekagon, Wis. The first phase of the project would focus on a four- to five-mile section of the formation east of Mellen, Wis.
It would be the first iron mining operation in northern Wisconsin since the 1960s, if the legislature gets a bill passed that would streamline the permitting process for ferrous mining operations.
“This is an opportunity for us to put up to 2,300 people — 2,300 families — with a work opportunity here in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said.
About 700 jobs created would be related to the mine and producing taconite pellets for steelmaking — the rest would be in transportation and other spin-off industries.
Walker said the state’s history was built on mining — highlighting the miner, pick ax, shovel and badger on the state flag — to highlight its importance in Wisconsin history.
“We’re not the badger state because we have all these animals around,” the governor said. “We’re the badger state because our heritage involves mining” and if any state can streamline the process, to return to mining, it should be Wisconsin.
Walker, who traveled the region on his Harley Davidson motorcycle, said he understands the importance of tourism in the region, which relies on clean air, land and water.
While the Wisconsin Assembly has approved a bill, that bill has been modified to address concerns raised by Legislators serving on the Joint Finance Committee.
Another bill was introduced two weeks ago by Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, both members of the disbanded senate mining committee. The bill is modeled after Minnesota’s mining law, but was designed to create more certainty in the process.
Walker said there has been no line drawn in the sand to adopt the bill adopted by the Wisconsin Assembly. He said he believes the final bill, which he hopes will be adopted in the next week or two by the senate, will be a compromise between to address concerns.
Walker declined to say whether he would call a special session if a bill doesn’t pass by the end of the session.
“We’ve been involved in mining since the 70s,” Maki said.
Mark Hubbard, a senior vice president with Lakehead, said the company was involved in mining even before that, but it remains a very important part of the company’s business.
Currently, he said the company has several hundred employees working on the furnace line at United Taconite. He said while the projects are often short term, lasting a few weeks, they require hundreds of man-hours of labor, creating hundreds of jobs for people in the community.