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Don't loosen mining regs

Protection from sulfide mining pollution may be on its way out if Republican bills, Assembly Bill 499 and Senate Bill 395, become law. These bills risk the health of Wisconsin waters to open the way for foreign-owned mining companies.

Sulfide mining contaminates the environment with carcinogens and neurotoxins including arsenic, mercury and lead.

The Environmental Protection Agency has called the mining of sulfide ore America's most toxic industry, accounting for more than 37 percent of all toxic materials reported to the EPA.

The proposed bills would relax wetland and groundwater protections, shorten the time to review and permit mine plans, limit challenges to state mining permits, exempt mine companies from fees that cover costs of handling hazardous waste and reduce the financial liability for mining companies.

AB499 and SB395 would dismantle Wisconsin's "Prove it First Sulfide Mining Moratorium," which passed with near unanimous bipartisan support in 1998. "Prove It First" requires an example of a metallic sulfide mine that has safely operated and closed without polluting the environment before permitting a new sulfide mine. The requirement has not been met.

The small, short-lived Flambeau Mine in Ladysmith failed the test. A tributary of the Flambeau River remains on Wisconsin's list of impaired waters for acute aquatic toxicity caused by copper and zinc.

Aquila Resources, a Canadian company, consulted with Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, over the language of SB395 to ease mining regulations. Aquila is looking to a number of potential sulfide mining sites in northern Wisconsin in addition to its sulfide mine proposal adjacent to the Menominee River along the Michigan and Wisconsin border.

Clean waters are necessary to our economy, health and quality of life. We put it all at risk with short-term acid mining projects that can cause decades of environmental and economic damage to our communities. Say "no" to AB499 and SB395.