Metal-Mining the Menominee: Big Red Flags

Mar 29, 2016 | Citizen Advocacy, Mining, Water Policy

We’ve reported on the possibility of a huge metal mine (gold, nickel, copper) right on the bank of the Menominee River, in the Upper Peninsula – a river we share with Michigan that drains to everyone’s Lake Michigan.

The permit application for the mine is huge and complex, but the good souls at Save Our Wild UP have diligently plowed through thousands of pages of documents. They also commissioned an independent mining permit review firm, Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2), to dig into the permit paperwork of Aquila Resources, the mine’s developer.

Their “Red Flag Review” of Aquila’s application finds a number of flaws, oversights and shortcomings.  Most interesting, perhaps, to Wisconsinites is how Aquila uses the now-closed Flambeau metal mine, near Ladysmith, as a successful model for its mine.  But CSP2 says there are “significant differences” between Aquila’s so-called “Back 40” mining proposal on the Menominee and the Flambeau project.

Among them:

  • Flambeau’s ore was not processed near the river, but rather processed off-site.
  • Polluting sulfide material was put back into the pit, not left on the surface, as Aquila proposes to do at the Menominee River site.
  • And – this is big – the Back 40 mine will be 10 times larger than Flambeau.

No word as yet from Michigan regulators as to the fate of Aquila’s proposal.

You can find the full CSP2 analysis here.

Indian tribes in the region are understandably deeply concerned with this mine proposal and have organized a Water Walk on April 23 and 24.