The Door County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution opposing the Back 40 Mine near Menominee at its monthly meeting Tuesday, July 25. The resolution passed the county’s Legislative Committee unanimously following comment from local and regional residents in opposition to the mine.
“Considering our close proximity to the mine, to the Menominee River and to Green Bay it would be very wise for this committee to oppose construction and the digging of the mine,” said Dennis Skahen, former Resource Development Specialist with the UW-Extension office in Door County.
“This is a multi-layered issue,” said Gregory Hitch, Ph.D. student specializing in indigenous environmental justice at Brown University, originally from Green Bay. “We have a dead zone that’s outside the mouth of the Fox River and that is because of all the nutrients that have been going into the river from manure and fertilizers… Let’s consider how we’re going to fix that if we also have a sulfide mine pouring into our bay.”
Those in opposition to the mine mostly cite environmental concerns. The open pit sulfide mine will be 150 feet from the mouth of the Menominee River. These mines are known to produce sulfuric acid when sulfide ore waste interacts with water and oxygen. The company proposing the mine, Canadian-based Aquila Resources, has received three of the four permits it needs to begin operation.
The counties of Marinette and Brown along with the cities of Marinette and Peshtigo have passed resolutions opposing the mine. No county or municipality in Michigan has passed a resolution opposing the mine.
Legislative Committee Chair Susan Kohout requested information on the project from Rep. Joel Kitchens but Kitchens responded that he had not studied the proposal extensively. He said Wisconsin does not have any authority over the Michigan mine. Kitchens referenced an op-ed from John Nygren, representative in Marinette County nearest to the proposed mine, that showed general support for the project.
“The mine will bring jobs and boost our economy, all while keeping accordance with important safety and quality regulations that help safeguard the environment,” said Nygren in the statement.
Under the Clean Water Act, Wisconsin did have influence in the wastewater discharge permit, which was granted in April 2017. Any influence on the final permit for an out-of-state mine is unclear.
Kohout questioned whether a county resolution would have any real effect on matters in another state.
Paula Mohan, former political science professor at UW-Whitewater, told the committee it does matter.
“It’s been made clear that Michigan has primary jurisdiction,” said Mohan. “There’s a tradition of people who are affected by decisions being able to state their opinions or give their advice about what decision should be passed. Since Door County will be extremely impacted by the consequences of this decision… you have every right to say this mine is a bad idea and this will decimate your economy. Please know that you are in solid ground in asserting authority.”
Guy Reiter from the Menominee Indian Reservation spoke to the cultural impacts of the mine on land that his tribe considers sacred.
“Our creation source starts at the mouth of this river,” said Reiter. “One of the things we’re concerned about, of course, is our ancestors. There’s three known burial mound groups and we’re very concerned about it.”