It's at least a five-hour drive from Mellen, near the site of a proposed iron ore mine, to Madison, the site of a hearing on a bill that would overhaul state mining regulations.
The hearing is to start at 9 a.m. Wednesday, so those interested in the bill would have to leave at 3 a.m. if they wanted to get to Madison in plenty of time, find parking around the Capitol and get to Room 411 South in time for the hearing.
That means at least a full day in Madison for those in northern Wisconsin who want to attend the hearing. They'll have to take at least one day off of work, which in an economically depressed and job-starved area of the state is difficult. It's a long day of driving, sitting in a hearing, and driving back, unless they want to shell out some money to spend the night, which many people might not have the funds to do.
The Legislature could ease this travel burden by holding a hearing in Ashland or Iron counties. The people there are the ones who will most immediately feel the effects, good and bad, of a mine. And they're the ones who should have a say in the matter.
We understand that the proposed regulations would be for the whole state, not just the Mellen area. Plus, not every issue needs a hearing in every locale that will be affected. But we believe this issue warrants a hearing in the area that will be affected the most and in the area that prompted the hearing. Gogebic Taconite first offered to operate a $1.5 billion open pit iron mine in that area and that offer is the impetus behind the mining regulation overhaul.
Debate on the proposed bill is expected to be contentious, with opponents saying an open pit mine will irreparably harm the environment while supports say it will provide jobs and income for years.
Those living in an area of high unemployment and low household income probably don't have the resources for an overnight stay in Madison or can afford to take a day off of work or are able to leave in the middle of the night for a full day in the state Capitol. That's why a hearing should be held up north in the area that will profit economically and pay environmentally for a mine.