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Conservation Group Opposes Industrial Acid Mining In Wisconsin

Sulfide mining creates massive amounts of waste, which environmental organization say is full of toxic substances. (Per Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
Sulfide mining creates massive amounts of waste, which environmental organization say is full of toxic substances. (Per Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)
July 24, 2017

MADISON, Wis. — According to the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, a closed-door effort is under way to draft a bill that would weaken the state's mining law.

The group said the bill would pave the way for industrial acid mining, also called sulfide mining. Mining companies have identified four potential sites in northern Wisconsin with mineral deposits suitable for sulfide mining.

Sulfide mining creates massive amounts of waste, and according to the league’s executive director Kerry Schumann, that's is a huge problem.

"Sulfide mining is actually the most toxic industry in America. The Environmental Protection Agency has actually called it the most toxic industry,” Schumann said. "Actually, the metal mining industry accounts for 41 percent of all toxic materials that are reported to the EPA."

Supporters of increased mining in the state say the industry creates high-paying long-term jobs and economic development.

Schumann said the reality is the opposite, and irreparable damage is done to the environment. In addition to the massive amounts of earth that are dug up in the process, huge quantities of water are used, creating wastewater that contains sulfides.

And Schumann said wastewater is just one of the problems.

"There's this noxious brew - it's called acid mine drainage. It contains heavy metals that literally can poison groundwater,” she explained. "It can destroy all aquatic and plant life in a river. It can turn lakes and rivers into dead zones."

Schumann said there has never been a sulfide mine anywhere in the nation that has not polluted nearby drinking water sources, lakes and rivers. Millions of tons of waste are created, which Schumann said are deadly.

"It contains arsenic, asbestos, mercury, lead, benzene - it's sort of the list of all the things that we know are the most toxic things out there, comes out of sulfide mining,” she said

According to Schumann, a number of polls - even some conducted by conservative-leaning organizations - have consistently found that voters believe environmental regulations should not be weakened to create mining jobs in northern Wisconsin.

To learn more, visit ConservationVoters.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI