Michigan regulators want more information on Back Forty Mine application

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

(WLUK) – The Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality has asked for more information for a permit for the proposed Back Forty Mine in Menominee County, Mich.

Aquila Resources wants to operate a gold, zinc, and copper mine in Lake Township. It has already obtained three of the necessary permits. This last permit would be the “wetlands, lakes and streams” application.

Aquila submitted the permit application Oct. 2. The state has responded by asking for Aquila provide additional clarification on information contained within the Indirect Wetland Hydrology Impacts report, according to Kristi Wilson, with the DEQ’s Water Resources Division.

Some examples of the clarification that is being requested;

  • The Wetland Hydrology Impacts report concludes that two of the wetlands are not connected to groundwater, their model and figures show the groundwater table approximately 10 feet below the ground surface and Information in the groundwater modeling report states that there may be problems with the groundwater modeling elevations. Contained in the submission is also information collected by the applicant onsite, such as soil borings and piezometers in those wetlands, which show a groundwater table within a foot of ground surface. We are asking for clarification on this information because the onsite information provided does not support the groundwater modeling. If these wetlands are connected to groundwater, as some of the data indicates, the proposed project may be draining surface water from them and therefore that wetland impact acreage must be part of the permit.

  • There are inconsistencies in units used to identify potential wetland impacts, ½ foot is not equal to ½ meter yet both have been used, but have not been used consistently to make a conclusion regarding the extent of groundwater drawdown.

  • In the recent information submitted for the Part 327 Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool they state vertical wells will be used to dewater the mining pit and project area, however in the Part 632 Permit Application they stated sumps in the floor of mine pit will used to collect and remove groundwater.

Once the Back Forty application is determined to be administratively complete, a public notice will be published, triggering a period for comments by the public and local governments. The notice also triggers an EPA review of the project.

Aquila requested a public hearing, which will be held within 60 days of the application being determined as administratively complete. The hearing, which has not been scheduled, will be held in Menominee County.

The DEQ is required to make a permitting decision within 120 days of determining the Back Forty application as complete unless Aquila requests the DEQ to extend this application processing period.

Some have opposed the project, citing concerns the mine may negatively affect water quality, particularly in the Menominee River.

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