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WI: GTAC silent as mine debate resumes

By   /   January 4, 2013  /   3 Comments

By Ryan Ekvall and M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

Gogebic Taconite, the company that had proposed a $1.5 billion mine in northern Wisconsin, is mum on the latest mining bill movement in the Legislature.

MADISON — The last we heard, Gogebic Taconite LLC – the company that proposed a $1.5 billion iron ore mining operation in northern Wisconsin — was leaving the state.

“Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining. We get the message,” CEO Bill Williams said in a statement after the state Senate failed to pass mining regulation reform last March. “GTAC is ending plans to invest in a Wisconsin mine.”

But GTAC never really left Wisconsin. Its office doors remain open in downtown Hurley, and the phones still ring. It’s just that now no one from GTAC is talking.

With the contentious debate heard from Madison to Milwaukee to the Northwoods and back, perhaps it’s the company’s silence is expected, maybe even understandable. After coming to the Wisconsin in late 2010 and spending more than $100,000 lobbying legislators to change the state’s mining laws, GTAC found the political storm over mining regulations part of the political hurricane that was the Wisconsin recall elections of 2012.

The debate has been so mired in hyperbole that it’s difficult to discern the facts.

Republicans say Democrats aren’t serious about mining and the economic impact it would purportedly bring to portions of the state’s most economically depressed areas. Democrats say Republicans are selling out the people and their clean air and water for a quick buck.

These two intractable forces haven’t been able to meet somewhere in between.

But that’s not stopping Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature from predicting mining reform will be passed in 2013 and that GTAC will resume its interest in the operation.

“I think there’s no doubt that (the company) would come back if something similar to what was discussed and debated last session was passed,” Walker told reporters at a late November gathering of the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby. “They’re still interested. If we passed this early in 2013, if the process could begin early in 2013, they’d start coming in and making their investment and taking the initial steps to move forward with a mine which would put people to work right off the bat.”

GTAC has spent $3 million or so already. Williams previously estimated the next phase of mineral exploration and environmental data collection could cost upwards of $20 million.

Wisconsin Reporter tried to contact Gogebic Taconite this week. On Friday, the company declined an interview with Wisconsin Reporter.

This is what we would like to ask GTAC. This is what we think the people of Wisconsin would want to know:

  1. Is GTAC still interested in building a mine in Wisconsin, the $1.5 billion operation for which mining legislation arguably has been written?
  2. GTAC has said it is really just interested in streamlining the permitting process and changing the timing of the contested case hearings. Beyond that, are you looking for taxpayer money to fund any part of the creation of the mine or its operation? If so, how much and for what use?
  3. If the Legislature passes a bill that is agreeable to you, would you begin work on the mine immediately? Would you sell the land to another company? Would you delay based on market conditions?
  4. How would GTAC prevent/limit environmental damage to some of the more pristine land in the United States?

Contact Ryan Ekvall at rekvall@wisconsinreporter.com, or Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.

  • jack parker

    Hello Ryan: In case you hadn’t noticed – there is no orebody at Penokee. If there was it would have been taxed by the state. So GTac is essentially running a scam – “selling” a mine which does not exist..They should be handled accordingly. Go straight to jail.

    Next go to Woodsperson site, or Google, to get the Silver Fox Parable and absorb it – because it lets you know how Big Mining, i.e GTac and Walker – use people like you and me to do their dirty work for free, dividing and conquering the opposition.

    Honest Jack Parker, mining engineer for 60+ years

  • The Wall

    A COAL MINING company (taconite uses an incredible amount of electricity) buys cheap mining rights from an entity who flatly tells them about the regulations in place. This company then begins a program of buying legislative influence and MASSIVE public opinion campaign (including recruiting the President of the Wisconsin State Bar) just like the coal mining industry did while mountain top mining in Appalachia which destroyed an ecology and corrupted a political system beyond any foreseeable remedy. The intent is to bypass and not comply with the requirements in place. This is horribly wrong and completely unacceptable campaign is being condoned and endorsed by the Administration of Temporary Governor Scott Walker.

    Gogebic Taconite LLC,
    Wisconsin is CLOSED for your business.

    By contributing to politicians for regulatory laxness Gogebic demonstrates that it will not follow the rules. This company is precisely the profile to hide income out of state and overseas. In hiding from Wisconsin’s income tax they will compete against proper permit getting, real tax paying companies and force them to dubious accounting in order to “fairly compete” all that after Gogebic buys an abbreviated approval process.

    Even if the approval process is burdensome, it was burdensome when they paid for mining rights. Had the approval process not been burdensome – the fair market would have made the price for mining rights much higher. By buying a devalued mining rights, then working to lower the regulations for themselves, Gogebic is leveraging against the balance of the fair market… in effect cheating the process.With that brief history you really this Gogebic is going to pay a fair wage? They can’t even fairly follow an approval process. They will whine, pay a few more politicians, hire another PR firm to sell to the gullible that the workers wages to too high for them to compete. Leveraging another price point against the once fair market for labor, just like they attempted with regulations. Big problem was that Walker was such a high profile confrontational temporary governor more and more people like me are paying attention to all the ramifications of this regime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bret.deutscher Bret Deutscher

    GTAC doesn’t own the land. Wisconsins current net proceeds tax structure essentially creates a taxpayer funded mine as it allows mining companies to deduct expenses before paying taxes. Shifting the timing of the contested case hearing shifts the states role in the contested case from arbitrator to defendant.