Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed legislation Monday opening the door to copper and gold mining in the state.
The legislation, which was opposed by environmentalists, Democrats and some Republicans, is designed to help grow the state’s mining sector, Walker said in a statement.
“Mining is a vital piece of Wisconsin’s history and is at the core of our cultural identity,” Walker said.
“With this new bill, we’re paying tribute to our state’s rich roots in the field and creating new family-supporting careers in the mining industry, all while protecting our abundant and valuable natural resources.”
The mining technique Walker approved is controversial because of its potential for releasing acidic material into waterways, both when a mine is operating and in the decades of wastewater storage that comes afterward.
Wisconsin law had barred state regulators from issuing sulfide mining permits until similar mines elsewhere in the country had both operated and been shut down for decades without adverse environmental impacts.
The provision is so strict that it was effectively a moratorium on precious metal mining in Wisconsin.
Supporters of mining argue technological advancements have made it environmentally safe. The Journal-Sentinel reports that mining interests, businesses and conservative groups in Wisconsin had supported the bill as it worked through the state legislature, where every Democrat and five Republicans voted against it.
Wisconsin’s new law comes as neighboring Minnesota debates allowing precious metal mining in the state. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last month to overturn an Obama administration effort to slow down mine permitting near a federal wilderness area in northern Minnesota.