Update on Metallic Mining in Wisconsin

Jun 14, 2018 | Citizen Advocacy, Mining | 1 comment

Metallic mining continues to be a major topic and threat to the waters of Wisconsin. Thankfully, many people have been writing elected officials, speaking at hearings and writing letters to the editor. River Alliance of Wisconsin is proud to be a part of such a dedicated coalition of groups and advocates. Below, we’ve included updates on both the proposed Back 40 Mine project and updates on local mining ordinances in Wisconsin communities.

Back 40 Project Receives Wetland Permit

On June 4th, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved Aquila Resources wetland permit for the Back 40 Project (a proposed sulfide mine on the Menominee River) with significant conditions. We are extremely disappointed about this decision. We believe this permit did not get approved by its merits.

In their letter approving the wetland permit MDEQ stated,

“We have determined that the project as proposed could not be permitted without additional supporting documentation because the hydrologic modeling provided does not define the anticipated impacts to aquatic resources described in the application.”

“However, based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations, the MDEQ can issue a permit with conditions that require revised groundwater and wetland modeling to demonstrate existing and future site conditions and impacts proposed by the project.”

We want you to know that this fight is far from over.

These conditions, and the conditions on the other three Back 40 mining permits, will require a lot from Aquila Resources, and this will take time. During this time local groups and conservation groups are working together to review the permit details and the options available next. River Alliance will continue to stand with the people who have worked for so many years to protect our waters, lands and the sacred cultural sites from the threats of sulfide mining.

You can learn more about the deficiencies in the permit from the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition.

The two Back 40 legal actions filed by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin are also still pending. These legal challenges, meeting permit conditions and raising enough funding to start the project are a few of the reasons why this project is far from moving forward anytime soon.

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Local Mining Ordinances

Due to the repeal of the “Prove it First” law through Act 134 last December, counties across the state have worked rapidly to create or update local metallic mining regulations to conform to the new state law. The implementation of Act 134 was delayed until July 1, 2018 to allow communities time to create these polices, but communities may also update their polices after July 1. The actual deadline to approve local regulations is before a mining application is submitted, which locks in local regulations.

River Alliance has been advocating for strong metallic mining ordinances in several counties.

We have focused our attention on Marathon County because they did not have metallic mining regulations and also have a known gold deposit, the Reef Deposit in the Town of Easton. River Alliance was pleased to work with several conservation partners to help citizens, government staff, and county board supervisors in several counties to better understand the metallic mining process and the ways to protect their community’s natural resources and current economy.

We will continue to work with our partners and local communities to do all we can to protect our waters from the dangerous impacts of sulfide mining.

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