It looks like there was an overflow crowd at the mining hearing in Hurley yesterday according to the Ashland Daily Press, the Ashland Current, and a much more reliable source for me, the GurneyGranny who had her 'mukluks on the ground' in Hurley for the better part of yesterday. Accounts in both local papers were nicely done and well worth a read. It would appear that few people, other than Wisconsin State Treasurer Kurt Schuller, support the bill exactly as it's written, mainly because half the money would go into the black hole that is the state general fund rather than being returned to the area of the state where it was generated. The tribes and environmental groups in the state were well represented and made their opposition clear. Mining advocates also made their case for the benefits of the project.
Whether a person was on the pro or the con side however, doesn't make a damn bit of difference. This bill will be voted on next week in the Assembly just exactly how it was written, written with the able, unbiased assistance of GTAC of course, and it will pass. I get to use one of my favorite analogies for most public hearings: they are like those little cars seats with a steering wheel on them that we AARP members had when were kids, before car seats became the miniature space capsules they are now. Having that steering wheel gave us the illusion we were turning the car and every once in awhile the car would turn in the same direction that we turned the wheel, making us giddy with power and smug satisfaction. The fact of the matter of course, was that the old man was driving the car and we had exactly zero say on which direction it went.
This bill still has to be introduced in the senate, passed, make it through the conference committee, and then be signed by the Governor. We shall see how that process goes. In the meantime, please check out some photos of the area the mine will be located in. These images are by Joel Austin of Big Bear Sundries who lives in the area, and are far more evocative than the snapshots I throw up here. The chairman of GTAC, Bill Williams, says there lots of pristine areas like this in Northern Wisconsin and the UP. Take a look at the images in Joel's blog and then please let me know where the other areas in the state are that are like that, I'd like to head up and check them out. My paddling buddy and naturalist extraordinaire, ProfessorLichen, visited a reclaimed coal mining area from 80 years ago down in Iowa. Take a look at the pictures of that area vs. the shots from Mr. Austin. Which landscape do you like better?
Finally, John Tornius, the Chairman of the Board of Serigraph (a Wisconsin company that my company works with) and author of The Company That Solved Healthcare, wrote a well reasoned and spot on piece on the process of launching a new mine. The last two paragraphs are key. The state needs an open, deliberate process but not an unending one. The current process we are in the midst of, if you read his post, do not seem to fit this description. Lets hope, but not bet the farm, on the Senate injecting at least a bit of openness and deliberation into this issue.