In Wisconsin, Republicans push to end sulfide mining moratorium

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker voted to ban copper and gold mining in Wisconsin two decades ago. Now he may be asked to lift the one of-a-kind prohibition as his fellow Republicans push to continue opening up the state’s north woods to mining.

Conservationists have warned pollution from mining for so-called sulfide ores such as copper, zinc and gold could devastate northern Wisconsin’s water — one of the reasons the Legislature adopted a de facto moratorium on such mines in 1998. But after relaxing the state’s iron mining laws four years ago, GOP lawmakers have introduced a bill that would lift the prohibition. They say they want to jump-start the economy in the rural, sparsely populated northern half of the state.

The measure could put Walker in a tough situation, forced to choose between sticking with his long-ago vote when he was in the Assembly or signing the bill in hopes of sparking a slumbering industry. Supporting the measure would be a reversal he might have to explain on the campaign trail next year.