Back Forty Mine Gets Final Approval

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) granted Aquila Resources, a Canadian mining company, the final permit it needs to begin construction of a mine along the Menominee River in Michigan. In 2017, the Door County Board of Supervisors formally opposed the mine, citing possible impacts to water quality in Green Bay where the Menominee River discharges.

The DEQ granted the the wetland permit, the last of four needed permits, on June 4, but is requiring Aquila Resources submit updated wetland and groundwater modeling, a comprehensive monitoring plan, a wetland and stream mitigation plan and an adaptive management plan to respond to any issues with the operation of the mine.

The company cannot begin construction within the wetland area until the DEQ receives the additional documentation, but the company will begin its feasibility study and pre-construction planning immediately.

“Aquila will continue its efforts with the State of Michigan and local communities to demonstrate our commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable resource development that benefits all stakeholders,” the company said in a statement. “The Back Forty Mine will be a safe, disciplined operation that promotes and supports local community socio-economic development and is protective of the environment.”

Opponents of the mine are not so convinced.

In the months leading up to the final approval, the Menominee Indian Tribe launched campaigns across northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula encouraging local governments to pass resolutions opposing the mine. Eight counties passed resolutions opposing issuance of the final permit.

The resolution in Door County argued that potential pollution from the mine could impact the tourism economy in Door County. In January, a group of four Door County residents walked across the frozen bay to Menominee in opposition to the mine, emphasizing how short the distance is.

In January, the Menominee Indian Tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court opposing the mine, claiming the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Clean Water Act by granting permitting authority only to the state of Michigan. The Clean Water Act generally requires multi-jurisdictional approval on waterways that are shared between two states, such as the Menominee River. The lawsuit has been quiet since the tribe filed it in January.

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