State Senate lifts Wisconsin's nearly 20-year ban on gold, silver mining

MADISON -- The state Senate has lifted Wisconsin's nearly 20-year ban on gold and silver mining.

Lawmakers passed statutes in 1998 that require sulfide mining applicants to show a similar mine has operated in North American for 10 years without polluting and a similar mine has been closed for 10 years without polluting. State environmental officials have never made a final determination that any applicants ever met those standards.

The Senate passed a Republican bill on a 19-14 vote Tuesday that lifts those requirements, reduces mining companies' financial liability for environmental damage and loosens regulations for sampling. Democrats complained the measure would open the door to devastating pollution, but Republicans countered mining could help northern Wisconsin's ecomomoy.

The Assembly passed the bill lasts week. Senate approval sends the measure to Gov. Scott Walker, who voted for the moratorium as a member of the Assembly. The governor's spokesman, Tom Evenson, didn't immediately reply to an email Tuesday evening asking if Walker will sign the bill.