Oh My, Another Mine

Feb 17, 2016 | Citizen Advocacy, Mining, Water Policy

Just when you thought we could relax about mining in Wisconsin, the state of Michigan is reviewing a mining proposal, for copper, nickel and other metals, by Aquila Resources (aka Back 40 project), on our border.

The mine may as well be in Wisconsin, for the potential ill effects it could have on the waters we share with Michigan — the Menominee River and Lake Michigan. In fact, the mine will be located a stone’s throw from the Menominee River, the border river between Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and in full view from the river.

The state’s Dept. of Environmental Quality (the same agency that let slip the Flint, Michigan drinking water disaster) is reviewing the permit. In terms of public opinion, many people of the economically hard-pressed Upper Peninsula favor the development the mine would bring. Others want to stop it completely. The River Alliance has weighed in, pointing out that a mine failure would wipe out a multi-million dollar sturgeon restoration project we have been part of (not to mention most everything else in the river that would be damaged).

River Alliance of Wisconsin Executive Director Denny Caneff, comments on the proposed mine in a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality:

“We greatly fear this considerable investment to restore this iconic and highly-prized fish will be damaged by even a minor failure at the mine site and possibly entirely destroyed by a major accident there. The sturgeon produced by this habitat restoration project will obviously not be the only animal or plant that would be harmed by a failure at the mine. But given the considerable interest in this prehistoric fish, from a cultural, ecological and commercial perspective, the mine represents a direct threat to all that is being done to revive the sturgeon in not just the Menominee River, but in Lake Michigan as well.”

One of the films featured in this years Wild and Scenic Film Festival deals with a similar issue in a different location.  An open-pit mining boom is underway in northwest British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines Рat the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska Рhas Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries.