Mining firms get too much leeway, engineer says
Associated Press Last Updated: 02/19/2002
Mining companies have received special treatment under
regulations for hazardous waste and groundwater quality,
an environmental engineer said Tuesday.
Robert Ham, a professor emeritus at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, said legislators should pass a law
barring the state Department of Natural Resources from
exempting mining companies from those rules.
"Mining waste should be treated exactly the same
as other waste," Ham told the Assembly Environment
Current law allows the DNR to exempt mining companies
as long as the exemption doesn't violate state or federal
law or pose a threat to public health, safety or the environment.
The bill would require state officials to regulate the
byproducts of mining, processing and refining ores and
minerals as hazardous waste, if they have the characteristics
of hazardous waste.
But Ray Carey, a lobbyist for Nicolet Minerals Co., which
wants to develop a mine near Crandon, said mining companies
don't get special treatment and there are no loopholes
in state environmental laws.
Regulations governing mining have gotten tougher over
the years, and mining companies must meet strict standards
before being granted permits, he said.
Carey said the legislation is a "one-size-fits-all
approach to hazardous waste management" that won't
work for tailings, the byproducts of mining.
Nicolet Minerals is still awaiting state, federal and
local permits to mine 55 tons of zinc and copper ore in
Environmentalists oppose the mine, saying toxic chemicals
from it will damage the environment.