Back 40 Mine Update & Action Alert

May 10, 2018 | Citizen Advocacy, Mining | 1 comment

The last few months have been active for the Back 40 Mine proposal. Communities continue to pass resolutions against the proposed Back 40 project and sulfide mining. There are now seven counties, two towns, two cities, dozens of tribal governments and intertribal organizations, environmental, sport fishing and faith-based organizations from both Michigan and Wisconsin that have passed resolutions opposing the Back Forty project.

Action: Contact Project Investors

On May 22, 2018 an annual meeting of the shareholders of Aquila Resources will be held in Toronto. Your voice is needed to protect the Menominee River and surrounding communities. Let the main investors in Aquila Resources know how you feel about the proposed Back Forty Project. According to mining risk analysts like Ernst & Young, the fourth greatest risk to mining investors comes from “ignoring community voices and their environmental and public health concerns.”

This is a prime time for you to let investors know that the risks are too big and the community does not want to have polluted water, desecrated cultural lands, or negative impacts to the current local economy that needs healthy water and fisheries.

Protect Wisconsin’s waters and communities. Click the blue button to modify & send our suggested letter to the 4 main investors in the proposed Back 40 Mine project.

Update from Menominee Tribe

The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin’s contested case hearing began on April 23rd.  Here’s an update:

In February 2017, the Menominee Tribe filed a petition for a contested case hearing on Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to approve the mining permit for the proposed Back Forty mine.

The hearing is scheduled to run for at least five weeks, starting April 23. The proceedings are taking place in Lansing, Michigan.

The Menominee Tribe’s arguments against the mining permit include:

  • That Aquila Resources did not provide complete information about the Back Forty’s potential impact on Menominee’s historic and current land uses, and the burial mounds and garden beds in the mining area.
  • That Aquila Resources does not have an adequate plan for preserving archaeological resources and human remains likely to be Menominee that are unexpectedly discovered during mine operations.
  • That Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was wrong in determining that Aquila’s mining permit application was administratively complete and ready for final action.
  • That Aquila Resource’s contingency plans do not adequately address the potential release of toxic or acid-forming materials, unplanned subsidence, and natural risks such as flooding.
  • That the company did not adequately assess, and the permit is not protective of natural resources including sturgeon and other fish, water quality and other natural resources.

EPA Objections

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), have objected to Aquila Resources’ wetland permit application. If Aquila Resources and MI DEQ do not satisfactorily address the concerns raised by the EPA within 90 days, the review of the wetland permit will be taken over by the Army Corps of Engineers. Ironically, this is exactly what the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin’s lawsuit is asking to have happen (Menominee Tribe Files Notice of Intent).

On January 22, the Menominee Tribe filed a lawsuit because they believe the Corps and EPA should take over the review of the wetlands permit application. For most states the Corps has a role in reviewing wetland permit applications. This is not the case in Michigan. The state of Michigan has been given sole authority to review wetland permits. The Menominee Tribe believes the state of Michigan should not have been delegated this authority for this proposal because the Menominee River is an interstate body of water.

In addition to the objections to the wetland permit from the EPA, MI DEQ also sent Aquila Resources a list of issues to address on both January 18 and March 2. The 30-page document provided by MI DEQ to Aquila Resources on March 2nd included the comments shared by the 88 people that spoke at the January 23rd public hearing for the wetland permit. The document also included a summary of the 3,420 written comments MI DEQ received from people concerned about this risky proposal.

Aquila Resources has responded to the concerns MI DEQ raised on January 18th and they have stated that they will address the EPA’s concerns within the 90 day deadline. Aquila and EPA met in April to discuss the concerns that were raised and it looks likely that a deal will be made to add conditions to the wetlands permit to address EPA’s concerns.

It is estimated that MI DEQ will not have a decision on the wetland permit until at least June. Add in the Menominee Tribe’s lawsuit and Aquila Resources need to acquire funding and a social license to mine, it will be some time before this proposal progresses further.


We welcome your comments or questions on this topic. Please contact Allison Werner, Local Groups Program Director by email at [email protected] or by phone at 608-257-2424 x113.