Front 40 is a grassroots organization that was formed in 2003 in response to the threat of a metallic sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River in Lake Township of Menominee County, Michigan. Our mission is to ensure that metallic sulfide mining operations are not allowed to adversely impact our rivers, lakes, groundwater and lands. We do this by creating public awareness of mining exploration, informing citizens and elected officials of the reality of community economic issues typically involved with mining operations and utilizing our collective grassroots voice to have environmentally responsible legislation implemented.
The potential mine site we have been monitoring is located west of Stephenson, Michigan. By the time area citizens were aware of what had been transpiring, the mining interests had already claimed access to over 50,000 acres of mineral rights to both private and state-owned property in Menominee County, Michigan and about that same amount across the Menominee River in Marinette County, Wisconsin. The mining effort is known as the Back Forty Project and consists of an exploration company, Aquila Resources, and Hudbay Minerals, the company that would do the actual mining, both are Canadian firms.
Many promises have been made to the citizens in the area by the companies, including assurance that there would be no pollution, though the mine site is located right along the banks of the river near the Shakey Lakes Savanna and a few miles north of a chain of lakes on which is situated a popular county park. Indian burial grounds and garden plots are also located in the area along with year-round homes, cottages and outdoor recreation property.
Suddenly, on July 3, 2012, Hudbay announced that it was pulling out as the mining company and severing agreements with Aquila Resources. Where the project stands at this point is unclear. Aquila Resources has announced that it is exploring the possibility of developing this type of mine in Marathon County, Wisconsin.
Front 40 has no paid staff—all our people are volunteers. What we have accomplished has been done entirely by volunteers with the help of donations and grants from organizations such as Freshwater Future to whom we are very grateful. Without help from such groups, the general public and concerned citizens, we would not be able to continue this effort.
Do we consider the exit of Hudbay a success for our group? Temporarily, yes, but time will tell as Aquila will likely seek some other mining interest to pick up where Hudbay left off. We view our main success as informing the public, which was largely unaware of what was transpiring when we began nearly 10 years ago. In the meantime, we continue to monitor the mine, visit public officials, attend public meetings and conduct programs which inform and educate our community on the issue of pollution from mining operations. We are also currently reaching out to our neighbors on the Wisconsin side of the Menominee River to engage other communities in the watershed.