Public Comments to MDEQ: 98% Opposed to Back Forty!


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced a Public Comment period regarding the Back Forty mine permit application — more than 37,500 pages long. After concerned citizens requested more time to comment on the permit, MDEQ agreed to extend the deadline by two weeks. However, following the Public Comment period, the MDEQ staff person who received those comments refused to answer basic questions like “how many public comments were received?” Not even a rough estimate could be provided.

Alarmed that MDEQ regulators were not being “open and transparent” during the mine permit review process, one concerned citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act request, and forwarded the documents to Save the Wild U.P. for our review.

It is now clear that over 2,000 members of the public – including local residents, landowners, fishing enthusiasts, business owners, county officials, educators, tourists, tribal members, scientists, environmentalists and other concerned citizens – wrote to MDEQ to convey serious concerns about the proposed sulfide mine project!


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98.2% OPPOSED!

Public Comments were expressed through emails, letters, editorials, technical analysis, handwritten messages, and signature petitions.


“I don’t want to show my children and grandchildren (the Menominee River) and tell them about stories when the river used to be a thing of beauty and inspiration.”
– C.J. to MDEQ

“I worked as a Project Manager on Superfund sites. I have seen how companies reap profits and then walk away from their contaminated sites. Please do not approve the permit…”
-B.N. to MDEQ

“As a graduate of Michigan Technological University, in Metallurgical Engineering with thirty years experience in the cast metals industry, I have knowledge on both the positive and negative effects of removal and refining of rock to generate metals. Huge advances have been made -in legislating environmental protection. At the same time the best prevention based approach can’t override the unknown level of natural events, mine processing accidents, or simple human neglect that could wash mine residue and contaminants off the Back Forty site and into the Menominee River.”
-J.R. to MDEQ

“With great concern for the well-being and future of the lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, creeks, wells, marshes, bogs, groundwater and, reality check here… “life in general,” I am speaking from my heart. The Menominee River has been a part of our family for four generations.”
-D.T. to MDEQ

Think about all the mothers and fathers who aren’t going to be able to take their sons and daughters fishing on the rivers and streams after this FOR PROFIT company sucks every dollar out of the ground and put back in its place, runoff and chemicals.”
-C.S. to MDEQ

“After the initial shock was overcome regarding what this mine would look like and how it may affect these streams, wetlands, swamp and the Menominee River- I thought to myself how can the DEQ on one hand offer programs as the one we’ve been involved with for now over 10-years and on the other hand ignore the data that’s been collected by a collective body of persons numbering in the hundreds? Data that shows a wide number of “rare” species. And yes this data is being ignored. (…) We are no experts but these persons (Aquila Resources and their contractors) failed to even note at least 1 stream that runs along their boundary and other locations such as wetlands and swamps that will be negatively impacted should they be allowed to dewater the area.”
-T.B. to MDEQ

“When reviewing the indirect and direct cost estimates for the Back Forty financial assurance, it is obvious that it has been significantly underestimated…”
-Dr. Kendra Zamzow of the Center for Science in Public Participation to MDEQ

“The ARD (Acid Rock Drainage) risk is very high. Most material contains sulfides, and there is very little natural carbonate for buffering. (…) 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.”
-Dr. Kendra Zamzow of the Center for Science in Public Participation to MDEQ

“The tailings analyzed represent only the first 8 years of the life of mining operations. Since tailings are generally piled, the last tailings to be produced are the most representative of what would be near the surface when mining operations cease. Are there any tailings test results for the tailings expected to be produced as the mine is preparing to close operations?”
-Menominee River Front 40 to MDEQ

“I know that the constant argument for mines are to promote well paying jobs. As a young person with student loans and personal experience with small town people having to move to find work, I understand this argument. That being said, I cannot ignore the fact that this may temporarily help local communities, but long term probably will be devastating. A well maintained natural area where my family, myself and hopefully many generations to come will put money into local business promotes a healthy long term economy. Even this may be a small amount of money compared to what this mine could make, but when you combine all of the people in our states and tourists who love the outdoors over generations it will outweigh the immediate benefit.”
-M.S. to MDEQ

“I am writing you to express my concern regarding the Back Forty Mine and its proximity to the Menominee River. As a resident of the Great Lakes Region, as vacationer who brings his family to Harbor Country to enjoy Lake Michigan, and finally as consumer of Lake Michigan drinking water, I have grave concerns over the risks posed by having a mine so close to a river and its conveyance to Lake Michigan. Decisions of those in the entire basin affect all of those who live around these wonderful lakes. We only need to look at the Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo oil spill to recognize the dangers.”
-T.C. to MDEQ

“The Assessment states that tests reveal there are no known occurrences of contaminated groundwater or surface water in the Project area and that “This is consistent with its remote location and lack of industrial activity in the surrounding area.” Will this be true when the mine closes after seven years and in the years to follow? Will we be another Flint someday or have an Animas River situation? The potential for damage to Upper Peninsula water and the environment are real. Risks are numerous, unknown and uncertain. PLEASE do not allow Aquila to proceed with the Back Forty Mine Project and deny its Permit Application.”
-K.L. to MDEQ

“Please hear us. We do not want a mine polluting our back yard. Nature is too precious and needs to be preserved for future generations.”
-S.E. to MDEQ

“What will happen when our wells become contaminated from the cyanide, arsenic and other poisons that will end up in the river and the Aquila people be held accountable? What will happen, as has happened before, is that they will go slinking back to where they came from and file bankruptcy. We have been inundated with misleading info and outright lies. We deserve better.”
-N.T. and S.T. to MDEQ

“At another winter meeting, a DEQ official explained the regulation process involved in mining permits. Hew said that mining companies must take care of cleanup, and the Menominee River would be protected from tailings pollution. What he didn’t say however, is that the low wall Aquila might build along the river would not be exempt from ‘Acts of God”. For example mild earthquakes (…) Floods can also occur, washing tailings into the river. So much for the protection of our water supply!”
-P.G. to MDEQ

“As landowners in Holmes Township we are very concerned that the impact of the proposed mine will negatively affect our groundwater, not to mention the quality of the waters of the Menominee River and Shakey Lakes.”
-C.M and J.M. to MDEQ

“Metallic sulfide mining has never been done anywhere in the world without polluting ground and surface waters. Because this is common knowledge other areas have banned the use of cyanide for the extraction of gold and silver. (…) Cyanide poisoning from metallic sulfide gold mining is a far more serious problem (than lead poisoning in Flint). The question is not “if” but “when” this will occur. All the mining company PR won’t help when they are long gone and DEQ gets blamed for allowing them to legally or illegally contaminate our post precious vital resource – water. Water is more precious to life than gold!”
-B.W. to MDEQ

“A spill would create a disaster with chemicals flowing into the bay and eventually Lake Michigan. And what about the liners? How long will they last and who will be responsible. How large will the pond(s) be and what is its capacity? Will the pond be covered and how will you prevent run-off into the river Many have these same questions but we have no answers. From what is on the DEQ website there is no dollar amount required to be held for such a disaster or even a plan should one occur. Many of us who are residents along the river are fearful of the possibility of such a disaster and the contamination of our wells, loss of property values and the loss of being able to enjoy a pristine river, its beauty and the fishing it offers.”
-D.P. to MDEQ

“I am a Native American living in Menominee Township just downstream from the “Back Forty Mine.” I live on land that my Woman’s ancestors homesteaded 143 years ago and it is still in the family and we hope that it will still be in the family for many more generations to come with still the BEST TASTING WATER EVER. I was raised to respect Mother Earth for she provides us with all that we need to sustain life and that we need to protect her for the next seven (7) generations that are coming. Promoting this Back Forty Mine so close to the Menominee River is not a good Idea. Everybody in the area has a well for their water, some are shallow (…). I would not be proud to tell my generations to come that I was part of why they have NO WATER.”
-W.B. to MDEQ

“Totally opposed! Reasons: 1. Disruption of environment 2. Destruction of wildlife caused by 3. Pollution of river and tributaries 4. Harmful to surface water and wells. What are we to do if we can’t use our wells? 5. Many will lose their livelihood. 6. Property values in the area will plummet. We will have to pay property tax on land that will be diminished. It is unbelievable to me how this project could move forward being so harmful to so many, just to line the pockets of a few!”
-ST. to MDEQ

“Even if Aquila meets all the standards required, there is no guarantee that it is safe. It may not happen in our lifetime but sometime in the future, maybe the next generation, the poison will flow into our rivers and wells.”
-M.K. to MDEQ

“We have lived in other areas where mine residue was left from mines long closed with no one responsible for remediation. The danger to the public continues long after such projects come to the end of their productive life.”
-K.M and J.M. to MDEQ

“I have been employed as an environmental affairs manager for a manufacturing firm and am well acquainted with the risks associated with the mining chemicals being proposed, particularly cyanide. With the proximity of the mine to the river there is insufficient mitigation available to acceptably eliminate the risk of contamination to the river. And once released , the results of the contamination cannot be undone. Please do not allow this project to go forward.”
-S.O. and K.O. to MDEQ

“Since the District is charged with assisting County landowners with the management of their natural resources, we feel obligated to address the potential Back Forty Mine project. We identify the proposed mine location as a sensitive natural and cultural area, and the adjacent Menominee River System as a unique, regionally significant water feature. The Menominee Conservation District implores both the Michigan DEQ and Aquila Resources that great care be exercised in the planning, pending authorization, potential development, and final remediation of the site to ensure the quality of our natural resources are not diminished. “
-Menominee Conservation District Board to MDEQ

“We are writing to express our opposition to the proposed Back Forty gold-zinc sulfide mine which Aquila Resources would like to develop next to the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula. (…) Aquila Resources likes to say that the Flambeau mine of Ladysmith, Wisconsin is an example of a mine operating without causing pollution, but in reality the Flambeau mine has polluted surface and groundwater and that pollution continues today. There is currently no technology or method available to prevent the pollution which this proposed mine will cause. (…) Please do the right thing and think about the long-term future and deny the permit for the proposed Back Forty mine.”
-D.P. to MDEQ

“I was not fully aware of the size or scope of this proposed mine until I attended the meeting (in Stephenson). It will be huge. I do not believe most people living in Menominee County have any idea just how big or even where it will be. This huge open pit mine will literally be on the banks of the Menominee RIver. If there could be a 1-10 list of worst places to put a gold and silver mine, this would be number one.”
-M.T. to MDEQ

“I am 71 years old. I have resided in Menominee County Mich since I was five years old. I am writing this letter to voice my concerns about the mine being planned for our county. I feel that this mine, if it comes in, will ruin Shakey Lakes Park, pollute the Menominee River, pollute all the wells for miles, and ruin all the beautiful land where it will be located. I have a camp and 80 acres a few miles away. (…) I realize that there are a lot of people that are easily lead and easily swayed by big money, and will allow this to happen. But I also feel there are a lot of people in high places who are sincere and honest. I hope they feel as I do and will try to prevent this from happening.”
-T.S. to MDEQ

“Do we really need these natural resources? Look at the prices they are paying for recycled metals, historically low. Why are they low, because they have more than there is a demand for. People are letting recyclable metals go to the landfills because it’s not worth messing with. Let’s slow down on mining so the recycling markets pick up and people can make a little money doing what everyone should always be doing – RECYCLING. The mining companies have written their own history. It’s a dirty business and they can’t hide from all the water resources they have ruined. Let’s not add the Menominee River to the list of water resources that have been compromised.”
-J.M. to MDEQ

“We attended the meeting put on by the D.E.Q. on January 5, 2016 at Stephenson H.S. to learn more about the mine project. (…) I was disappointed at the responses by the D.E.Q. people to some of the questions raised at the meeting: such as what chemicals will be used to treat the tailings? Response, I don’t know! How much money will be held in an escrow account to cover damages after Aquilla pulls out? Again, I don’t know, ask Aquila was a common response. Does not the D.E.Q. have oversight on the mining project? I am afraid we will wind up with another toxic dump as has happened before in other areas. We think it is plain lunacy to even consider digging a pit mine next to the River for the purpose of extracting gold and silver or any ore. The trade-off for jobs is not worth the risk of damaging the environment with sulfuric acid or related chemicals, poisoning area aquifer from which our drinking water comes, and killing all the marine life in the River and Shakey Lakes, ecosystems that evolved over thousand of years, also the archaeological importance of the area with regards to our Native Indian population and features dating back to the Woodland Cultures. We expect our State Government to lookout for these interests and to carefully consider all the ramifications of allowing a pit mine on the banks of the Menominee River. WE ARE AGAINST THE BACK 40 MINE PROJECT.”
-J.N. and J.N. to MDEQ

“It is absolutely not true (as claimed by Aquila) that the Flambeau Mine in Wisconsin has not polluted nearby waters.In fact, it is still polluting ground and surface water today. The WDNR has recommended to the USEPA that a tributary of the Flambeau River be listed as “impaired” due to copper and zinc toxicity. Please take the long view of damages to the environment including major public investment in supporting lake sturgeon populations, and Native American cultural sites. Don’t trade them off for short term (and dubious) economic benefits.”
-K.W. to MDEQ

“Any contamination from the Aquila project will not only affect Michigan waters, but also the Menominee River and water aquifers that feed many families, livestock and agricultural enterprises. My wife and I will go on record with fellow Wisconsin residents to reject and oppose any mining project by Aquila in the Menominee County of Michigan. Our waters and the environment should be our most valuable asset.”
-D.B. and L.B. to MDEQ

“A feeder creek from the mine site flows into the Menominee River and we are objecting to the continued planning for the Back Forty Mine. While mining has been an important part of Northern Wisconsin’s and the Upper Michigan’s heritage and growth in the past century, our current generations have been struggling with much of the waste produced from those efforts. While unintended, they did occur. The risks that the mine carries to the pristine waters of the Menominee, and quite possibly Lake Michigan are too hard to ignore. Successful fishing, recreational use, and clean water don’t happen overnight. But, those uses can all come to an end in ONE night. Is it worth the risk? We say no!”
-Wisconsin Smallmouth Alliance to MDEQ

“The Menominee River is considered to be one of the best smallmouth rivers in North America. It also supports, musky, pike, sturgeon, amphibians and many species of birds and mammals. It provides recreational opportunities to thousands of people each year and this, in turn, provides a strong economic boost to the citizens living in this area. To jeopardize all of this for the small return the Back Forty Mine project might produce seems shortsighted at best. I hope you will prohibit this project from moving forward.”
-Badger Fly Fishers Club to MDEQ

“As a long-time Lake Township landowner and taxpayer, I am concerned that a foreign company can come in and dictate through, what appears to be a flawed permit process, what will happen to the area. There is not enough protection for the Menominee River, the environment around it, the people’s rights, historical areas, air, land, clean-up, waste.”
-M.T. to MDEQ

“The mining permit shows the use of a large amount of Cyanide. Holmes Township, Lake Township and Menominee County have passed resolutions against the use of cyanide in relation to mining. Will the MDEQ take those resolutions into consideration for this permit application? Part 632 does not detail the use of Cyanide- therefore what regulations covers use of Cyanide if any? Will the State of Michigan defer to the Township…?”
-T.B. to MDEQ

“I am sure the company views itself as professional and qualified to take on the project, but it is their first mine! (…) The Menominee River is a major tributary of Green Bay and the Great Lakes. How does an open pit chemical mine on its banks fit in with the goals of the Great Lakes Compact or the $250 million dollars just budgeted federally for clean up? How does it fit in with the lower Menominee clean up projects of the Wisconsin DNR and Wisconsin Public Service? How does it fit in with the Sturgeon restoration or other stocking programs on the river? And, in general, Pure Michigan! Or how does it fit in with the Menekaunee Harbor Restoration Project at the mouth of the river? I hope you are working with or seeking feedback from these entities as well.”
-T.D. to MDEQ

“If there is an accident or natural disaster how many people on both sides of the river will be affected by contaminated water. Please don’t allow this project, the jobs and profits created are drop in the bucket compared to the devastation that will happen to the Menominee should something unforeseen occur. All mines pollute.”
-D.D. to MDEQ

“I started out looking at this Mine with an open mind but the more I learn the more I believe the long range possible negative impact on our environment is not worth the short term financial gain. An open pit mine 25 meters from the Menominee River seems to be a problem begging to happen. I believe this is a floodplain area with old dams, ice shoves and a reported earthquake in an area not far from the proposed site. (…)I’m not a tree hugger but believe we have to be stewards for future generations and all the animals and fish that use this watershed. Please err on the side of caution.”
-M.B. to MDEQ

“Our sturgeon fisheries need to be protected. The cultural and spiritual needs of the First Nations in the UP need to be protected. And most importantly, the water quality in the UP’s largest river system needs to be protected. As a UP property owner, and as a fifth-generation Yooper descendant, I beg you to keep our wild wilderness pure.”
-K.T. to MDEQ


Given serious concerns about MDEQ transparency and the fate of public input, we’re making these public comment files available for others to review:

3 thoughts on “Public Comments to MDEQ: 98% Opposed to Back Forty!

  1. I have always had such respect for our MDEQ. Knowing they were ever vigilant protecting our beautiful Michigan. I hope the potential dangers are truly considered. If they are… I don’t know how this could be allowed to go through. Please don’t allow this permit. Water is life.

  2. I totally oppose the openpit sulfide mine proposed by Aquila Resources Inc. The Menominee River is so important to the ecosystem of Michigan & Wisconsin. The small monetary gain is nothing compared to the inevitable devastation this mine will cause, leaving us without the central resource we rely on.

  3. We need 100% assurance that our water is safe and will be safe for generations to come. We cannot tolerate any possibility of destruction for the sake of greed from outside interested parties.