Aquila’s Back Forty “open pit mine” would be constructed ~150 feet from the Menominee River. Because this is a METALLIC SULFIDE MINE, the mine’s proximity raises serious flooding and inundation risks.

Any mine-related water contamination would threaten the health of the Menominee’s fish populations and recreational fishing, especially  Lake Sturgeon. Millions of dollars have been invested in the recovery of sturgeon in the Menominee River, where they are threatened but “stable” after years of collaborative sturgeon habitat restoration efforts by Michigan and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, with assistance from federal agencies, fishing clubs and nonprofit environmental groups such as the River Alliance of Wisconsin

The Back Forty mine targets a section of the Menominee River considered a world class smallmouth bass fishery – one of the best in North America! Fishing clubs are deeply concerned about the future of  Smallmouth Bass Fishing on the Menominee River, as are the small businesses, including river guiding companies, that depend on the health of the river. The proposed mine threatens natural resources of the Menominee River, an interstate waterway jointly managed by Wisconsin and Michigan. The Menominee River is the state boundary line, and is the largest watershed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The Wisconsin Resources Protection Council is actively opposed to this sulfide mine proposal.

The Center for Science in Public Participation conducted a red-flag review of Aquila Resources mining application and found multiple issues of concern, serious omissions and miscalculations, including specific recommendations and technical actions regarding Aquila’s plans for Water Management, Tailings & Waste Rock Management Facilities, Pit Backfill Metal Leaching, Water Treatment Post Closure, Financial Assurance, and other topics. According to their report:
  • “Monitoring wells need to be placed to ensure the tailings facility embankment is not contributing acid or metal leaching to groundwater.”
  • “Given the potential for antimony, selenium, and arsenic to mobilize under neutral conditions, monitoring will need to occur at the TWRMF (tailings waste rock management facility) leachate sumps and at monitoring wells on and around the backfilled pit until hydrology and chemistry have stabilized.”
  • “The TWRMF cap is designed to reduce infiltration, but given the extremely acidic nature of the material that will be enclosed, the cost of a WTP (water treatment plant) should be included in financial assurance for at least the 20 year post closure monitoring period.”
  • “When reviewing the indirect and direct cost estimates for the Back Forty financial assurance, it is obvious that it has been significantly underestimated, especially with regard to the indirect cost calculations(…) the direct costs should be reviewed by a qualified party to correct assumptions that underestimate the cost of reclamation that would need to be conducted by a regulatory agency.”
The entire planned Back Forty open pit mine and Tailings Waste Rock Management Facility basins (TWRMF) hinge on a single underlying assumption: that the State of Michigan will agree to a proposed LAND SWAP with Aquila Resources. The proposed land exchange threatens critical habitat, including threatened and endangered species. The mining proposal’s open pit mine, contingent upon the land swap, would disturb or destroy tribal archaeological resources, treaty protected natural resources, and Menominee River fisheries. Shakey Lakes: The Escanaba State Forest’s Shakey Lakes Oak-Pine Barrens Ecological Reference Area (ERA) and a proposed Biodiversity Stewardship Area (BSA) are adjacent to the proposed mine site. A mine next to this ecological reference area will degrade the ERA, endangering rare habitat, and jeopardize the state’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for sustainably-harvested timber.

Aquila has made fraudulent “Life of Mine” statements! When reviewing any mine proposal, one basic question must be answered: “what is the proposed Life of Mine (LOM)?” In order to correctly calculate a mine’s risks, benefits and cumulative environmental impacts, an accurate LOM estimate is essential. According to Aquila’s permit application, “The (Back Forty) Project will be an open pit mining operation” and the “Life of Mine (LOM) operation is planned to be approximately 7 years.” This is misleading. Elsewhere, Aquila describes the Back Forty project as having a “16 year life of mine (LOM), of which 12.5 million tonnes is open-pit and 3.6 million tonnes is underground.” Back Forty is described as a 16 year mine in Aquila’s press releases, in communications with the Menominee Indian Tribe, and in letters to investors and local community leaders. According to their Project Fact Sheet: “we support a transparent process(…) visit our website at aquilaresources.com/projects/back-forty-project for more information.” Visitors to Aquila’s website find a 16 year mine described.

The design of the Back Forty Project (an open pit sulfide mine on a river) is described as comparable to Wisconsin’s Flambeau Mine (another open pit sulfide mine on a river). Does the Flambeau Mine prove that riverside sulfide mining can be done safely? Absolutely not — get the facts:  https://deertailpress.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/flambeau-mine_gauger_jun2016__final_l.pdf

Because the Back Forty would be a sulfide mine, it threatens to leach sulfuric acid, which is extremely hazardous to freshwater rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. Again, the Center for Science in Public Participation warns that the mine’s “ARD (Acid Rock Drainage) risk is very high. Most material contains sulfides… (…) All tailings are expected to generate acid, with the exception of tailings produced in year 3 of mining. Additionally, over 75% of the waste rock is expected to generate acid.” Sulfide mining could pollute groundwater or devastate the Menominee River, which drains into Lake Michigan.