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Wis. Mine Bill Would Slash Money For Environment

Based on those numbers and the legislation's 2.7 cents per ton fee, the state could generate between $665,000 and $785,000 a year that would be divided between the environmental management account and the waste board.

If Gogebic Taconite had to pay the $7 recycling fee, the state would generate more than $172 million for environmental cleanup and pollution abatement, the bureau said.

The bill's author, Sen. Tom Tiffany, said Thursday that it doesn't make sense to retain the $7 recycling fee since Gogebic Taconite plans to use the waste to fill the pit when the mine closes.

"This is not a recyclable material," said Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. "The waste rock ... will be used in the reclamation. That's the rationale."

Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams said the recycling fee was intended to cover trash deposited in a landfill and shouldn't apply to rock.

"I think that would be a deal breaker for anybody," Williams said. "You put it in and no industry will come."

Larry MacDonald, mayor of Bayfield, a city of roughly 500 people on Lake Superior about 50 miles north of the mine site, said the bill could lead to pollution that could harm the city's lake-dependent tourism industry. He said exempting Gogebic Taconite from the recycling fee is ridiculous.

"The fact we'd lose $171 million is an atrocious thing," he said. "That's throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Clark, the Baraboo lawmaker, is co-sponsoring an alternative mining bill that also would eliminate the $7 recycling fee on waste. But the Democrat said that bill is better because it imposes a so-called tonnage tax, which would require mining companies to pay according to how much iron they extract. Seventy percent of the revenue would go to local governments near the mine; 30 percent would go to the state.

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