Menominee Tribal Chair Editorial–‘The risk is too great’ for proposed mine

Posted on September 19, 2019 by

Published with permission from Douglas Cox, Chairman of the Menominee Tribe

Dear Editor,

The Menominee Tribe has repeatedly voiced concerns to Michigan environmental regulators about the proposed Back Forty Mine. Aquila Resources, the Canadian mining company behind the mine, has failed to submit the information required to determine the likely impacts of the mine from acid mine drainage, wetlands destruction, and groundwater drawdown. Nevertheless, the agency, now known as Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE), has granted multiple permits needed for the mine to move forward. Recent reporting in the Detroit Free Press and other outlets reveal approval was granted despite serious concerns flagged by regulatory staff, and a staff recommendation to deny at least one of the permits necessary for the mine.

EGLE staff have gone on the record to state that the agency has never issued permits in this manner before. This flawed process denies the public an opportunity to review the facts and weigh in. In light of this new information, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can compel regulators to revisit whether permits were improperly issued. It is important for anyone concerned about the Back Forty project and its potential impacts to make their voice heard.

The mouth of the Menominee River is the place where the Menominee originated as a people. We remain inextricably tied to the river, and to our ancestral land along the river. Sacred mounds, burial sites, dance rings, and raised agricultural beds grace the landscape as a testament to our presence even today. These irreplaceable cultural resources are located at and nearby the proposed mine site, and are eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. There is no other site like it in the entire State of Michigan.

Aquila’s plan to construct an open-pit sulfide mine just 150 feet from the east bank of the Menominee River in Lake Township, Michigan, would entail digging a massive hole, to extract gold, zinc and copper from sulfide ore using cyanide at the mine site. The company is openly contemplating potential future expansion of the project. It is all but certain that the Back Forty Mine will result in long-term water quality contamination. Once abandoned, sulfide mines like this invariably release toxic pollution and leave the local people with the aftermath — contaminated water, dead wildlife and the financial costs of cleanup.

The risk is too great. It is imperative that concerns voiced by EGLE’s water experts, the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are taken seriously by the State of Michigan.

Douglas Cox, chairman
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin


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