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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Sweeping Mining Bill

The bill also exempts mining companies from the state's $7 per ton recycling fee on waste materials, sparing Gogebic Taconite from paying the state an estimated $171 million annually for environmental protection programs.

Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams didn't immediately return a message Thursday evening.

Assembly Republicans were visibly relieved after the vote, even taking the unusual step of applauding the Legislature's lawyers for crafting and re-crafting the bill.

They walked out of the chamber to find about 20 protesters waiting for them. They hurled insults at the legislators, calling them "fascist pigs" and "traitors." Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, exchanged a fist bump with one of the protesters and assured them the mine would never happen.

Indeed, the Bad River could prove to be an especially formidable legal foe for Gogebic Taconite. The tribe's reservation lies just downstream from the mine site and members fear run-off from waste rock will pollute their water. As a sovereign nation, the tribe could evoke a host of unique environmental rights in court.

Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins Jr. promised "active resistance" that could include filing lawsuits to stop the permitting process or occupying the mine site. The Bad River's reservation is sacred and tribal members won't allow it to be polluted, he said.

"We have nowhere to run," Wiggins said.

___

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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