Tue September 18, 2012
Quicker Permits May Hurt Mining Companies
A federal expert told a special mining committee in Madison Tuesday that speeding up the permitting process for new iron mines in Wisconsin might not be in a mining company's best interest.
One of the highlights of the failed Republican effort to rewrite Wisconsin's mining laws last session was a significantly shortened timeline for permit approval. No longer would a mining company have to wait years for a permit from the Department of Natural Resources. The GOP proposal would have required a decision in 360 days. Business groups supported the idea.
However, every mining project needs both state and federal approval. According to Rebecca Graser with the Army Corps of Engineers, that process generally takes two-and-a-half to four years at her agency. She says if the state and federal government are on different timelines, it could mean a mining company would have to do twice the work. "I don't know if it would double their costs, but I would expect that it would increase their costs significantly."
Graser says that if the state and federal government do not cooperate, it could leave a mining company "in the lurch." "In my personal opinion, I would think that two different studies that are supposed to describe the same environmental consequences might come up with different conclusions, which would certainly leave open to court objection."
Graser made her comments to a special Senate Committee on mining. The full legislature is expected to debate the issue again next year.
Economy and Business