Action Alert – citizens oppose Aquila Back Forty sulfide mine!

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Citizen opposition to the Aquila Back Forty project is growing – ADD YOUR VOICE!

Please take a moment to let Michigan’s elected officials know that you oppose the Back Forty open pit sulfide mine, proposed for the bank of the Menominee River. First, click to READ THE LETTER OF OPPOSITION. Feel free to add your own specific concerns to the letter. When you’re ready, click SIGN AND SEND NOW – it’s that simple!

Your letter will be sent to Representative Ed McBroom, Representative John Kivela, Representative Scott Dianda, Senator Tom Casperson, Governor Rick Snyder, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Congressman Dan Benishek. It will also be sent to Director Bill Moritz (Michigan DNR), Director Keith Creagh (Michigan DEQ), and Joe Maki (DEQ). Additional info is available on the DEQ’s website: http://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3311_18442—,00.html

Letter to elected officials, opposing Aquila Back Forty mine application

Dear elected officials and environmental regulators of Michigan,

[signature]

36 signatures

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Latest Signatures
36James NooneIllinoisMay 23, 2016
35Diick DragiewiczILMay 23, 2016
34Jay KramerWisconsinMay 22, 2016
33Michael LeannahWisconsinMay 15, 2016
32jane pajotmiMay 15, 2016
31Elmore ReeseMichiganMay 14, 2016
30Michele BourdieuMichiganMay 14, 2016
29Margaret ComfortMIMay 14, 2016
28Mimi AndaryMichiganMay 14, 2016
27Keith CrowleyWisconsinMay 14, 2016
26Joshua RoeverWIMay 13, 2016
25Ronald NelsonWisconsinMay 13, 2016
24Cheryl DannenbringMNMay 13, 2016
23Steven GarskeMichiganMay 13, 2016
22Dr. Phil BellfyMICHIGAN (MI)May 13, 2016
21Marlene NelsonMi.May 13, 2016
20Lindsey DuplerMIMay 13, 2016
19Roslyn McGrathMichiganMay 12, 2016
18Daniel RydholmMIMay 12, 2016
17Christopher FriesMichiganMay 12, 2016
16Zelda ZiemerMichiganMay 12, 2016
15Gary BallwegMichiganMay 12, 2016
14Janet JoswiakMichiganMay 12, 2016
13Catherine ParkerMI - MichiganMay 12, 2016
12Nancy HaunMichiganMay 12, 2016
11Pam MaakMIMay 12, 2016
10Kimberly HornMichiganMay 12, 2016
9David PitawanakwatMichiganMay 12, 2016
8David KayserMichiganMay 12, 2016
7Nathan FrischkornMIMay 12, 2016
6Janeen RastallMichiganMay 12, 2016
5Monica MurzanskiMichiganMay 12, 2016
4Paticia DunstanMichiganMay 12, 2016
3Alexandra MaxwellMichiganMay 12, 2016
2Lauren YellenMiMay 12, 2016
1Kathleen HeidemanMIMay 12, 2016

Concerned Citizen Questions DEQ on Aquila Back Forty Project

Mining Question: Who is in charge of permitting, and then monitoring a mine within only a few feet of the Menominee River that will create massive amounts of toxic waste? That will, over its lifespan use 360,000 lbs. of cyanide? That will dump wastewater into the Menominee River? In an aquifer that provides water for Marinette and Menominee Counties?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is in charge.
The same people that:

  • “…repeatedly gave assurances that water from the Flint River was safe, when in reality it had dangerous levels of lead.” -Governor Rick Snyder
  • “A state investigation has “uncovered systemic failures at the Michigan DEQ, “The fact is, bureaucrats created a culture that valued technical compliance over common sense – and the result was that lead was leaching into residents’ water.” – Governor Rick Snyder
  • Governor Rick Snyder states: “the Federal EPA also made mistakes. Top officials silenced an EPA water expert who tried to raise alarms about Flint’s water.”
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the oversight panel investigating the Flint water issue states, “…officials need to understand how the system failed the residents of Flint so badly.”

Michigan’s Governor, Rick Snyder states the DEQ operates under a system where “Bureaucrats created a culture that valued technical compliance over common sense.” Isn’t that happening here in the U.P.? Common sense dictates that you don’t permit mining of an acid generating ore, which will liberate heavy metals, create pollution and is within feet of the Menominee River and in the aquifer that provides water for Marinette and Menominee Counties. Shouldn’t the DEQ take what the governor said, and add a common sense factor to what they openly admit doesn’t exist as part of the permitting process today?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz states: “Officials need to understand how the system failed the residents so badly.” Common sense says; any EXTREMELY HIGH RISK project where the DEQ is involved should be put on hold until common sense is made a criteria rather than: “did they just fill in all the blanks on a permit application – even with garbage information just to have the blank filled in?” The DEQ says when they declare a permit application to be “administratively complete” the DEQ doesn’t decide if the information is true or even valid; just that all the blanks are filled in.

Signed,
Tom Boerner, concerned citizen

Save the Menominee River Speaking Tour

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In upcoming weeks, Save the Wild U.P. will participate in Save the Menominee River Speaking Tour, a series of informational forums organized to educate the public regarding Aquila Resources’ Back Forty project, a risky open pit sulfide mine proposed for the bank of the Menominee River (near Stephenson, MI). Grassroots opposition to Aquila’s proposed metallic sulfide mine brought together a coalition of concerned local citizens, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, and other environmental groups in both Michigan and Wisconsin.

Save the Menominee River forums are designed to educate the public about the cultural, environmental and economic impacts of the proposed mine. “This mine is not a done deal, “ said Ron Henriksen, spokesperson for the Menominee River Front 40 environmental group. The Michigan DEQ is currently reviewing Aquila’s mining permit application.

Speakers from a broad coalition of groups, including the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Save the Wild U.P., the River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, the Menominee River Front 40Cedar Tree Institute, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, sport-fishing groups, and others will present information about mining impacts from diverse perspectives.

The public will have an opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns about the Aquila’s proposed open pit mine, which includes milling operations, with cyanide processing of ore and the storage of waste rock and tailings, and an 800 foot deep pit, only 100 feet from the Menominee River. All forums are free and open to the public.

“Aquila Resources has presented a very rosy picture of how great this mine will be for the local community, but it is not necessarily an accurate and complete picture, “ said Guy Reiter, a member of the Menominee Conservation Commission and a tribal member. “This speaking tour will raise questions and concerns that have not been part of the public conversation about this project to date. This conversation needs to happen before any decisions are made about permitting this mine,” said Reiter.

Save the Menominee River Speaking Tour will take place on the following dates, in the following venues:

  • Monday May 9th, at 6:30 pm CDT
    University of Wisconsin-Marinette, 750 West Bay Shore St.
    Marinette, Wisconsin
  • Tuesday May 17th, at 6:30 pm CDT
    Menominee VFW Hall, 3937 10th St.
    Menominee, Michigan
  • Wednesday May 25th, at 10 am CDT
    MSU Extension Annex (S904 Hwy 41 (“the Stephenson Annex”)
    Stephenson, Michigan

An additional informational forum, featuring speakers Al Gedicks of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, and Guy Reiter discussing the recent Menominee River Water Walk, and the Menominee Tribe’s opposition to the Back Forty Mine, has been scheduled for Saturday May 21, from 12:30 pm to 5 pm, at the McMillan Memorial Library, 490 E. Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. The forum begins with a potluck. For more information, contact Barb at 262-408-7958.

FOLK tells DEQ to “stop dragging its feet” on air pollution in L’Anse

UPDATE: EPA TO HOLD “PUBLIC INFORMATION SESSION” IN L’ANSE
May 9th, 2016, 6:30-8:30pm
L’Anse High School Cafetorium

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will host a May 9 informational session to discuss the status of its air quality investigation at the L’Anse Warden Electric Company, L’Anse, Mich. EPA’s session will take place Monday, May 9, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at L’Anse Area Schools, 201 N. 4th St. EPA will be joined by representatives from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Residents of L’Anse have reported odors and dust coming from the power plant. Under a state permit, L’Anse Warden Electric Company is allowed to burn tires and railroad ties treated with creosote and pentachlorophenol. EPA is working closely with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to investigate residents’ concerns, address potential health risks and determine compliance with environmental regulations.”

More information on the EPA’s Clean Air Act Investigation at L’Anse Warden Power Plant:
https://www.epa.gov/mi/lanse-warden-power-plant

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PRESS RELEASE via Friends of the Land Keweenaw (FOLK)
April 25, 2016

For more info, contact Catherine Andrews, FOLK: 906 ­524­-6863 or 906­ 231­-2063

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK) asserts that the Traxys owned L’Anse Warden Electric Company (LWEC), located on the shore of Lake Superior in the Village of L’Anse, is not a biomass facility as classified by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). It is clearly a Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerator. The facility burns a non­-homogeneous mix of wood chips, wood processing waste, chemically treated railroad ties, tire chips and natural gas.

“We are demanding that the DEQ stop dragging its feet and respond to comments we and others submitted on September 9, 2015 as part of a public comment period on LWEC’s 2015 Renewable Operating Permit.”

A public meeting scheduled for October 29, 2015 was postponed indefinitely when LWEC reported a stack test failure to DEQ. The stack test revealed a hydrogen chloride level of 5.19 pounds per hour, more than double the 2.17 pounds per hour limit.

Citizen complaints regarding massive fugitive dust releases were finally addressed when the EPA ordered DEQ to collect its own samples 5 months after videos and samples of the dust releases were sent to DEQ. The test results proved elevated levels of pentachlorophenol, metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. A separate snow sample taken at the BHK Child Development Center was chemically analyzed and found to contain tire particulates.

The fuel yard contains thousands of chemically treated railroad ties and non­permitted utility poles lying on bare ground. Tons of tire chips are left uncovered in a pile near the boiler.

A February 3, 2016 compliance meeting between DEQ and LWEC in Lansing is still being “negotiated” after citizens were told that there would be an agreement within a week. LWEC has been operating with at least two major unresolved violations and without an operating permit since December 30, 2015. LWEC continues to blanket the community and the Lake Superior Watershed with toxic pollution.

Many residents would like to see the facility converted back to natural gas which is a much cleaner burning fuel. However, Traxys CEO Steve Walsh, says that is not an option as he is locked into a 20 year contract with Detroit Edison to provide electricity for DTE’s renewable energy mandate. Hasn’t that contract already been broken by the many egregious violations and misdeeds at LWEC?

Contact these individuals with your concerns and complaints:
Molly Smith, EPA Region V: 312­353­8773
Ed Lancaster, DEQ: 906­250­5124
Steve Walsh, Traxys, LWEC CEO: 917­572­1956

Local media coverage of this developing story:
FOLK Holds Protest on Biomass Plant (Mining Journal story)
Citizens air concerns regarding L’Anse biomass facility (UpperMichiganSource.com)
Friends of the Land of Keweenaw meet with DEQ… (UPMatters.com)
Environmentalists say DEQ isn’t doing enough (ABC10.com)

 

Cleaning Up After Sulfide Mining for Earth Day

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MARQUETTE—In recognition of Earth Day 2016, volunteers from Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) will collect litter along the Triple A in northern Marquette County.

“Until last year, there was no pavement on the Triple A,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP president. “Now it’s a paved haul road leading to the gate of Eagle Mine, with giant ditches, and those ditches are accumulating litter.”

According to Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin politician who organized the first Earth Day in 1970, “The American people finally had a forum to express their concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” Earth Day became recognized worldwide in 1990.

Save the Wild U.P. works to defend the U.P. from the environmental threats posed by sulfide mining. “Generally, we raise awareness about sulfide mining’s most serious dangers, like acid mine drainage require perpetual care, surface water contamination, subsidence risk, air pollution, and so forth,” said Heideman. “But sulfide mining has definitely brought litter, too – roadside litter from increased vehicle use by mining employees and contractors, trash left behind at remote mineral exploration sites, and trash blown from the mine site.”

“Littering is part of the ‘mining camp’ vibe, unfortunately.” said Alexandra Maxwell, Save the Wild U.P.’s executive director. “Following surface and seismic mineral exploration, Lundin Mining’s contractors leave PVC pipes abandoned in forests, ravines, and swamps, and plastic ribbons fluttering from trees. Trash blows out of trucks, or gets tossed out a vehicle window. Litter inspires more litter,” said Maxwell. “Obviously, we’d like to see the mining industry take full responsibility for their environmental impacts, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

“It’s still thawing on the Yellow Dog Plains, but the forecast for Saturday looks terrific!” said Heideman

Participants should meet Save the Wild U.P. leaders at the Big Bay Outfitters at 12:30pm on Saturday. The carpool caravan will be leaving promptly at 1pm.  Folks planning to attend should wear bright colors, closed-toe shoes or boots, and should bring gloves. Snacks will be provided at the end of the day, but participants are encouraged to bring water and any other essentials they may need. For more information please send an email to info@savethewildup.org or call 906-662-9987.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to defending wild places and clean water of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org or follow SWUP on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or Twitter @savethewildup.

Poets of the Wild U.P. – April 1, 2016 Reading

Banner-for-wordpress-poetryReadingMARQUETTE — Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) invites the public to celebrate “Poets of the Wild U.P.” with a poetry reading featuring Milton Bates, Lynn M. Domina, Janeen Pergrin Rastall, Kathleen M. Heideman and Russell Thorburn. SWUP’s special literary event is scheduled for Friday, April 1 from 6-8 pm at the Marquette Federated Women’s Clubhouse.

“We’re lending a uniquely environmental vibe to National Poetry Month, balancing the celebration of beautiful, wild and protected places with a clear-eyed understanding of urgent environmental issues threatening the Upper Michigan. Poetry gives the wild a voice that can be heard above the din of progress. We have grown deaf to the natural world. Poetry opens our eyes and our ears to the beauty of wild places. All we have to do is stop and listen,” said Chip Truscon, SWUP board member.

“In sponsoring this reading, we’re highlighting the special connection between Yoopers and their environment, through the work of five local authors who draw inspiration from Lake Superior, U.P. environmental issues, and the natural beauty of Upper Michigan’s wild places,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s director. SWUP’s poetry reading is free and open to the public.

The U.P.’s environment figures differently in the work of each poet: back-country trails, roadless areas, backyards, wild animals, shorelines, or winter cabin-fever. “There’s a strong spirit of place, an identification with wildness and struggle, at the heart of our stories,” said Jon Saari, emeritus professor of History at Northern Michigan University, and SWUP’s vice president.

“If you’re inspired by the wild lands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’re also aware of the wounded places – tailing basins, mine pits, caving grounds, clearcuts. To some degree or another, we all struggle to remain optimistic in the face of serious environmental issues. But poetry is a fundamentally hopeful act,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s president.

“Poets of the Wild U.P.” will be the fourth literary event hosted by SWUP. Last year’s “Poets of the Wild U.P.” poetry reading attracted a standing-room-only audience. National Poetry Month, founded by the Academy of American Poets, is the world’s largest literary celebration, involving millions of readers, teachers, students, librarians and authors and celebrating the role of poetry in our lives every April.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. – BIOS:

Milton Bates taught English literature for thirty-five years at Williams College and Marquette University. During that time he was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright lecturer in China and Spain. He has published a half-dozen books on subjects such as the poet Wallace Stevens, the literature and film of the Vietnam War, and the Bark River Valley in Wisconsin. On retirement he and his wife moved to the Upper Peninsula, which serves as the setting for many of his poems.

Lynn Domina is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, and many other periodicals. A Michigan native, she has also lived in Alabama, Illinois, and New York. She moved to the U.P. in 2015, where she lives in Marquette with her family and serves as Head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University.

Kathleen M. Heideman received the Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s 2015 Outstanding Writer Award. She’s completed artist residencies with watersheds, forests, the National Science Foundation, and the National Park Service — including Isle Royale and Sleeping Bear Dunes. Informed by environmental concerns, her work has been recognized by the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Bush Foundation, and others. She’s a curious woman.

Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, MI (population 2). She is the author of In the Yellowed House (dancing girl press 2014) and co-author of Heart Radicals (ELJ Publications, 2016). Her chapbook, Objects May Appear Closer won the 2015 Celery City Chapbook Contest. She is Managing Editor at ELJ Publications when she isn’t looking out at Lake Superior waves.

Russell Thorburn served as the U.P. Poet Laureate from 2013-2015. He lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his son and wife. A manuscript consultant for poets, he takes orphan poems that don’t fit together, and arranges the pieces in a way that not only makes sense, but makes beauty. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Salt and Blood, an experimental noir, is forthcoming from Marick Press who also published his third book of poetry, Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. READING

Friday April 1, 6-8 pm
Federated Women’s Clubhouse
104 West Ridge Street, Marquette, Mich. 49855
Free and open to the public

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

POETS OF THE WILD U.P. POSTERS

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SWUP Lies?

Recently a lone writer from Big Bay sent out, to undisclosed recipients, two of his short articles about the failure of environmentalism and in particular accused Save the Wild U.P. of lying in some of its outreach material. If you received such a message from Charles Glossenger, this response is for you.

Last fall Mr. Glossenger embarked on what he characterized as a two-month investigation of the Eagle Project (mine and mill), researching the “spin” put on economic projections by Lundin Mining (exaggerated, he said), the user-unfriendly nature of the Community Environmental Monitoring Program’s website (maintained by Superior Watershed Partnership), and the accusations of environmental pollution at the Eagle Mine and Humboldt Mill (there is no pollution, he concluded). The reports “for everyone” that came out of this investigation were shared with some SWUP Board members, among others. The reports were reasoned and readable, like the Letters to the Editor that Mr. Glossenger has written from time to time, especially on CR 595. He acknowledged that discussions of technical data and permits often led to disagreements; he did not argue that the company, the regulators, or the critics were deceitful, fraudulent, or lying in disagreeing with one another.

The latest articles sent by Mr. Glossenger in March 2016 are different. He has now drifted into attack mode against environmental organizations, from the large national ones (NWF, TNC, Sierra Club) to the smaller grassroots ones, like SWUP. They have apparently failed to change the world in any measurable way, whether on climate change or the size of individual ecological footprints. SWUP, he claims, is a small elitist clique prone to lying, and its actions have had no impact on sulfide mining. In his wild accusations he has undermined his own credibility as a commentator. Apparently he can not stand being ignored, and has broadcast his unhappiness far and wide.

SWUP has evolved into the most hard-hitting, thorough and factually correct critic of state permits related to mining, whether dealing with water discharge, mining applications, or leasing of state land. Hundreds of hours have gone into researching and writing public commentary on these permits (the Aquila Back Forty commentary alone was 40+ pages), and hundreds more into educational forums and hikes. To no effect? If Eagle Mine is a clean, small, and progressive operation, as Mr. Glossenger contends, it is due in part to the vigilance and persistence of its critics, who have not gone away. Similarly, the MDEQ knows that its every move is being watched, and has worked together with local environmental stakeholders to improve communication; they even attend some SWUP events. SWUP has thousands of supporters on its listserv for action alerts (yes, you read that right, thousands), and has engaged dozens of volunteers and student leaders in its past work.

The SWUP Board will not be responding to Mr. Glossenger directly, but if any of you SWUP readers/supporters have questions, please feel free to contact a Board member or leave a message on the website.

Charlie Parr & John Davey Perform “For The Love Of Land!” at Ore Dock Brewing Company

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MARQUETTE – Local environmental nonprofit Save the Wild U.P.(SWUP) will host another “For the Love of Land” concert on Sunday, March 20, from 6:00- 9:00 at the Ore Dock Brewing Company. The event will feature local musician, John Davey and Minnesota-based musical legend Charlie Parr. Tickets for the event are $10 and are on sale now at the Ore Dock Brewing Company; a portion of the proceeds will benefit SWUP’s work.

This concert, combining John Davey’s “… songs about heartbreaks and towns, people, places, and things” and Charlie Parr’s “blistering finger-picking and gritty, soulful vocals” will help support Save the Wild U.P.’s grassroots efforts to fight an open-pit sulfide mine proposed for the banks of the Menominee River.

This is the first event that Davey and Parr have played for SWUP. Davey is a songwriter from West Lafayette, Indiana who has been touring since 2007, playing hundreds of shows on dozens of tours, regionally and nationally. His lyrically substantive pop folk songs reflect his time on the road, and are often ruminations on the toll that traveling takes and the high cost of relationships.

Charlie Parr has been traveling around and singing his songs ever since leaving Austin Minnesota in the 1980′s. Parr has put out 13 studio recordings and plays over 250 shows a year featuring his distinctive resonator-fueled folk songs. Parr’s newest album, Stumpjumper (Red House Records), is receiving stellar reviews for its “deep blues” approach to American roots music.

“I’m excited to have such talented musicians share their work with our supporters,” said Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s executive director. “These two fellas have very different styles, but it just goes to show there is an endless supply of creative inspiration in the Lake Superior region, and countless reasons to come together to protect our environment.”

Save the Wild U.P. hosts concerts, film screenings and literary events throughout the year in order to highlight the connection between artistic inspiration, northwoods culture, the U.P.’s wild places, and environmental threats.

Save the Wild U.P. will have an informational table at the concert, with volunteers and board members on hand to inform concerned citizens about the proposed sulfide mine and other environmental issues, and promote SWUP’s upcoming spring and summer events.

Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots organization dedicated to defending the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.orgon Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links
Charlie Parr’s Official Website: http://www.charlieparr.com/
SWUP’s event page: http://bit.ly/CharlieparrODBC

‘Red-Flag Review’ Reveals Flaws in Sulfide Mine Application

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MARQUETTE – Local grassroots environmental group, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has secured an independent “red-flag review” of Aquila Resources mining permit application for the proposed Back Forty project. The technical review, completed by Dr. Kendra Zamzow (Ph.D., Environmental Geochemistry) and Dr. David Chambers (Ph.D., Geophysics) of the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2), outlines significant concerns and recommendations related to Aquila’s proposal for an open-pit sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. CSP2 analyzes mining applications for the sake of increased public understanding of the complexities involved in mining projects. SWUP has forwarded this review, funded by Michigan-based Freshwater Future, to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

Aquila Resources Inc. submitted a mining permit application for their proposed “Back Forty” project to the MDEQ in late November of 2015. Their 37,000 page application includes highly technical information regarding rock chemistry, acid rock drainage (ARD), milling, tailings waste, environmental impacts, and more. Prior to securing independent, expert analysis from CSP2, SWUP provided extensive written comment to the MDEQ.

“We’ve already requested that Michigan reject this mining permit application as fraudulent. Why is the Michigan DEQ still seriously considering this permit? Given all the errors, critical omissions, and misleading statements about the mine’s life, this permit application should be rejected. It’s that simple,” said Kathleen Heideman, Save the Wild U.P. president. SWUP, along with hundreds of concerned citizens, also called on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to deny Aquila’s requested land swap, since the open pit mine and tailings would be built on what is currently public land.

The new report from CSP2 flags serious omissions and miscalculations, and includes specific recommendations and technical actions regarding Aquila’s plans for Water Management, Tailings & Waste Rock Management Facilities, Pit Backfill Metal Leaching, Water Treatment Post Closure, Financial Assurance, and other topics. For example, according to the report:

  • “Monitoring wells need to be placed to ensure the tailings facility embankment is not contributing acid or metal leaching to groundwater.”
  • “Given the potential for antimony, selenium, and arsenic to mobilize under neutral conditions, monitoring will need to occur at the TWRMF leachate sumps and at monitoring wells on and around the backfilled pit until hydrology and chemistry have stabilized.”
  • “The TWRMF (tailings waste rock management facility) cap is designed to reduce infiltration, but given the extremely acidic nature of the material that will be enclosed, the cost of a WTP (water treatment plant) should be included in financial assurance for at least the 20 year post closure monitoring period.”
  • “When reviewing the indirect and direct cost estimates for the Back Forty financial assurance, it is obvious that it has been significantly underestimated, especially with regard to the indirect cost calculations(…) the direct costs should be reviewed by a qualified party to correct assumptions that underestimate the cost of reclamation that would need to be conducted by a regulatory agency.”
  • Dr. Zamzow also points out the erroneous comparison of Aquila’s closure plans to those of the much smaller Flambeau Mine, which had no tailings to deal with (ore was processed off-site) and left no waste rock on the surface. According to CSP2, detailed plans concerning alkaline amendment of tailings and the waste rock facility design was omitted from Aquila’s application.

In their letter to the MDEQ, Save the Wild U.P. requested that “the technical recommendations and questions raised in this report by Center for Science in Public Participation be incorporated into the MDEQ’s permit review process, and added to the Public Comment record for this permit application.”

“This review from the Center for Science in Public Participation – well known for their high quality technical analysis of mining applications – confirms our worst fears. Aquila’s permit application was incomplete at best, fraudulent at worst,” said Heideman. “Honestly, the Back Forty mining permit application reads like a bad cut-and-paste job. MDEQ should view this as a Red Alert.”

While CSP2’s review offers recommendations and actions that could remedy some of the technical deficiencies and glaring omissions in Aquila’s permit application, underlying, serious concerns cannot be resolved. As SWUP’s Executive Director Alexandra Maxwell points out, “The facts remain unchanged: this mine would destroy cultural and natural resources of the Menominee people, and it threatens the Shakey Lakes savanna, a globally unique habitat. The U.P.’s largest river is no place for an open-pit sulfide mine.”

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Founded in 2004, Save the Wild U.P. is a grassroots environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s unique cultural and environmental resources. For more information contact info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Get involved with SWUP’s work at savethewildup.org on Facebook at facebook.com/savethewildup or on Twitter @savethewildup.

Related Links:

Center for Science in Public Participation technical review in full: http://bit.ly/CSPPREVIEW
Save the Wild U.P. Public Comment to MDEQ: http://bit.ly/SWUPAQUILADEQ