Act 134 added a separate approval process for “bulk sampling,” and defined this activity as the removal of less than 10,000 tons of material to assess the quality and quantity of metallic mineral deposits and to collect and analyze data to prepare an application for a mining permit or other approval. Under this new provision, the bulk sampling process is permitted and regulated by the DNR.
The law requires a company that intends to conduct bulk sampling to file a bulk sampling plan with the DNR, along with providing information about the potential mining project. Methods used for bulk sampling, erosion control methods, description of any known adverse environmental, recreational or historic property impacts, and how those impacts will be avoided or minimized must be included in the plan. A company must also submit a plan for revegetation that describes how adverse environmental impacts will be avoided or minimized. Once a bulk sampling plan has been submitted, the WDNR issues the applicant a letter identifying what other approvals may be necessary in order to commence bulk sampling. In most cases, the department would also hold a public informational hearing on the bulk sampling plan, pre-application notification, and pre-application description.
A company must also submit a bond with the bulk sampling plan to ensure that the obligations of the mining company are completed. DNR determines the amount of the bond at a level that is adequate to fund the state’s cost for completing the revegetation plan if the company fails to do so.
Groundwater Protection Standards
The new law made no changes to the groundwater quality protection standards. All of the groundwater quality standards that applied to mining operations prior to the enactment of this legislation still apply to mining operations today.
Under previous law, for a metallic mining site, the Design Management Zone (DMZ), or compliance boundary, extends vertically from the land surface through all saturated geological formations. Act 134 granted authority to the DNR to determine how deep into the bedrock the DMZ extends. This authority was granted to the DNR by the legislature, due to the fact that deep bedrock in northern Wisconsin often has very low water permeability. This means that the rock does not transmit appreciable amounts of groundwater that can be monitored and the groundwater does not interact with important aquifers or surface waters