Graduate Project

The Social Construction of the Metallic Mining Industry: The Divergent Cases of the Mining Moratorium Bill (Wisconsin) and the Permit Streamlining Bill (Minnesota)

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  • Hardrock mining is associated with severe environmental and economic costs. Of particular concern is acid mine drainage which has contaminated several thousand kilometers of streams across the United States representing a formidable danger to watershed health. Given the high risks of this activity, ensuring high regulatory standards may be an important quality control measure to protect areas vulnerable to mining impacts. With this in mind, this study sought to understand the factors that led to two different policy approaches toward mining permits - the Mining Moratorium bill in Wisconsin and the Permit Streamlining Bill in Minnesota. Schneider & Ingram’s Social Construction of Target Populations framework argues that a group’s social construction and political power help determine what public policy approach is used to modify its behavior. In line with the framework, it was hypothesized that the mining industry enjoyed a more positive social construction in Minnesota than in Wisconsin. Content analysis was used to determine whether or not there was a difference between 1) the social construction of the mining industry in Wisconsin during the 1997-1998 legislative biennium that passed the Mining Moratorium bill and 2) the social construction of the mining industry in Minnesota during the 2011 legislative session that (introduced and) passed the Permit Streamlining Bill (HF1). Content analysis of newspaper articles collected from both time periods revealed that the social construction of the mining industry was indeed more positive in the Minnesota dataset than in the Wisconsin dataset.
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