EPA Intervenes in Back Forty Mine Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a federal objection to the issuance of a wetland permit to Aquila Resources by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for the proposed Back Forty open pit mine on the Menominee River. The EPA cited specific concerns with the proposed project, including deficiencies in the impact analysis, significance of aquatic resource impacts, shaky support for the applicant’s assertion on alternatives for tailing storage and failure to demonstrate adequate compensation for wetland and stream impacts. The federal agency pointed out many sketchy details within the application, including lack of details to ensure mine pit integrity with respect to the river and associated floodplain as well as to ensure mine discharges will not affect water quality, or even how the proposed daily 125,000 gallon drawdown of the Menominee River will impact surrounding wetlands. The EPA also notes that the company was asked to provide more information in January and earlier this month, and has failed to respond. The state agency has 90 days from the date of the EPA’s letter (March 8) to work with the applicant to resolve the outstanding issues or deny the permit. If the state does not resolve the issues, the authority of the permit process is transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Aquila Resources issued a press release saying it “is confident that it can work with the MDEQ within the prescribed timeframe to provide the additional information requested by the EPA.” The company has three other exploration projects:  Reef Gold Project located in Marathon County, the Bend Project (gold and copper) located in Taylor County, and Aquila Nickel located in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

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