Aquila Resources in May received federal and state permits for its proposed Back Forty mine in Michigan. However, the project still faces another legal challenge regarding its potential impact on the Menominee River and surrounding areas. Testimony was scheduled for Aug. 14 in Lansing, MI. 

    At issue is whether runoff from the mine will contaminate the river as well as other environmental and cultural concerns expressed by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, notwithstanding Back Forty’s compliance with stringent state and federal environmental regulations.

    The Center Square reported that Back Forty is tentatively scheduled to break ground at the end of 2020, provided the company overcomes the remaining legal challenges to the permits it has already been granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), formerly called the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

    The proposed site of the gold, silver, nickel, zinc and copper open-pit mine is located in Menominee County in the western Upper Peninsula.

    The mine as proposed and permitted would be 2,000 feet by 2,500 feet, 750 feet deep and cover 83 acres, and is projected to be operational for seven years. Back Forty is anticipated to produce 512 million pounds of zinc; 468,000 ounces of gold; 51 million pounds of copper; 24 million pounds of lead; and 4.5 million ounces of silver, according to Aquila’s website.

    Last May, Administrative Law Judge David L. Pulter issued his final ruling in a challenge against Back Forty by the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and property owner Tom Boerner. Pulter determined “that the proposed mining operation will not pollute, impair, or destroy the air, water and other natural resources, or the public trust in those resources,” in compliance with Michigan’s Non Ferrous Metallic Mining Statute.

    “In 2019, we have continued to advance pre-construction activities in compliance with all permits as issued for Back Forty,” said Barry Hildred, Aquila president and CEO, in a statement issued August 9.

    “In May, we received a favorable administrative court ruling upholding our mine permit and Michigan regulators issued a proposed decision in favor of our permit amendments,” Hildred continued. “In parallel, we continue to evaluate a potential future underground mine at Back Forty while considering all strategic and financial options for the Company and the project.”

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