Federal Agencies Question Back Forty Sulfide Mine Permit
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service sent a joint letter to the state of Michigan identifying key deficiencies in the wetlands permit submitted by Aquila Resources for the proposed Back Forty mine. The proposed sulfide mine would be located on the Michigan side of the Upper Peninsula’s Menominee River.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been given 90 days to resolve eight pages worth of objections or deny the permit. As written, the permit application is not in compliance with the Clean Water Act. If Aquila Resources and the DEQ fail to adequately address concerns or provide the requested information, the authority to process the permit will be transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers.
By EPA order, the MDEQ must require the following:
- Complete responses from Aquila to the questions concerns outlined in MDEQ’s Jan. 19, 2018 and March 2, 2018, letters
- Adequate characterization of wetland impacts, including any secondary wetland or stream impacts
- Additional details regarding monitoring, impact criteria, and specific adaptive management mechanisms sufficient to demonstrate avoidance and minimization of impacts to aquatic resources and prevention of contamination and unanticipated discharges
- Demonstration and supporting documentation that the mine site plan is protective of water quality throughout the life of mine and post-closure
- Additional documentation of Menominee River bank stability/erosion potential to demonstrate mine integrity
- Additional supporting documentation demonstrating that the preferred-alternative is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative, e.g., documenting off-site alternatives for waste rock storage including cost-analysis
- Additional support documentation demonstrating that the proposed preservation area meets the requirements of the 2008 Federal Mitigation Rule