Back Forty Mine receives final Michigan state permit

    Test drilling work being done at the Back Forty mine project in Menominee Co., Michigan. (Undated photo courtesy Aquila Resources.)

    (WLUK) -- Michigan regulators today issued the final state permit needed for the proposed Back Forty Mine in Menominee County, Michigan.

    The state Department of Environmental Quality previous issued three other permits, and now approved the "wetlands, lakes, and streams" permit to Aquila Resources for the planned gold, zinc, and copper mine.

    "This is a very significant milestone for Aquila and substantially completes a robust environmental permitting process in Michigan," Barry Hildred, Aquila president/CEO, said in a news release. "We can now focus the company's resources on the pre-construction phase at Back Forty while considering funding alternatives to complete the development of the mine. I want to thank our entire expanded team for all of their efforts in helping us achieve this significant milestone, and we look forward to building a world-class project in Michigan."

    The letter issued by DEQ requires Aquila to take several steps before work can begin:

    • The DEQ is requiring Aquila to develop an enhanced groundwater modelling and monitoring plan consistent with industry best-practices for the proposed open-pit mine before permitted mining operations can commence. The site-specific plan must include a wetland water budget model; collection of existing baseline groundwater and wetland data; and annual monitoring data to guard nearby wetlands against potential adverse impacts. The wetland plan must also be adaptive, with additional protective measures required if adverse water or wetland impacts are detected during the life of the project.

    • Aquila will also be required to develop state-of-the-art controls aimed at spill prevention and response to potential pollution releases from the mining operations including, chemicals used and stored on site, and the storage and disposal of waste rock.

    • Aquila must also develop a closure plan for the mine which includes a plan for returning the waste rock to the pit in a way that eliminates future impacts to surface and ground water.

    “Construction activity with regulated wetland and streams is not authorized to begin until all the required data and plans have been submitted and are approved by the MDEQ,” it says.

    Among the activities authorized by the permit:

    • Excavate 980,820 cubic yards of material within 5.31 acres of wetland
    • Place 803,453 cubic yards of fill within 5.91 acres of wetland and within 253 linear feet of intermittent stream channel
    • Construct a total of 282 linear feet of mine site perimeter security fence through six wetlands areas and one intermittent stream

    While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had filed objections to the permits, those issues have been resolved, the DEQ says.

    The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River issued a statement noting there are many steps Aquila must take before construction can begin.

    "There are numerous issues that were not addressed during the application process that will materialize in the future.... People who love our land and water--including our indigenous brothers and sisters--and those who have raised their children here and want to see their grandchildren grow up in this area, are the same people who will stand firm in total opposition to the proposed Aquila mine. This certainly is not the end of our opposition; it is the resurrection of government 'of the people, for the people, and by the people.' We stand united with organizations all across the State of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and we are in it for the long haul," it says.

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