Drilling in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Undermines Public Land

Houghton, MI —Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) members and supporters are expressing outrage and frustration following news that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a surface use permit authorizing Orvana Resources – a subsidiary of Highland Copper – to begin exploratory drilling in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (also called “the Porkies”). According to the DNR, drilling began Sunday — before the agency’s press release had been published.

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is well known for its hiking trails, rugged terrain, old growth forests, miles of wild and scenic Lake Superior shoreline, wilderness campsites, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. The Porkies are an all-season tourism draw for the entire region, and have been featured as a premier hiking destination by Backpacker Magazine, USA Today, and other national media.

“The sulfide mining industry is leading the State of Michigan around by a leash. Environmental regulators are completely out of touch with public sentiment on this issue. Michigan residents and visitors from around the country love the Porkies, and are angered by this announcement,” said Kathleen Heideman, a UPEC Board member.

According to DNR spokesman John Pepin, the agency did not provide public notice or a public comment period before issuing a permit for exploratory drilling on January 31.

“Whether this is a violation of Michigan’s open meeting law (Act 267 of 1976) is an open question, but it seems clear that the state has little interest in the public’s opinion concerning exploratory hardrock mineral drilling in Michigan’s premier state park,” said Steve Garske, botanist and Board member of UPEC.

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the crown jewel of Michigan’s state park system and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the midwest. In fact, the park is prominently featured in the PURE MICHIGAN tourism campaign: “Undisturbed on the edge of Michigan is an untamed world of uncharted woods and unseen stars, a magical place overflowing with waterfalls, where the Porcupine Mountains still whisper ancient tales and legends, and the rivers seem to flow into forever – a place known as the Wilds of Michigan, found in the Westernmost corner of the Upper Peninsula. Here we can get back in touch with nature, and back in touch with ourselves.” Visitors are urged to “Come to the Porcupine Mountains (…) and see nature in its purest form.” (Source: “Pure Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains: Call of the Wild”).

“Considering the exceptional natural and recreational features threatened by this decision, why wasn’t there an opportunity for public input?” asked Garske.

The mining of sulfide ore invariably leads to acid mine drainage, which threatens groundwater, streams, rivers and lakes, including Lake Superior.

“The ‘public’ in public land seems to have no clout. In our name, public lands can be sold, traded, and drilled, often with little or no public input. Shouldn’t there be tighter restrictions on what can be done in a wilderness state park like the Porkies? Why are we stuck in a legal mindset from the 1880s that allows “reasonable” mining exploration in areas where such activity, from a 21st century perspective, is entirely unreasonable?” asked historian Jon Saari, a UPEC Board member.

“The DNR’s actions – allowing a mining company to conduct exploration drilling in the Porkies – will outrage a lot of people. And the public should be outraged,” said Alexandra Maxwell, another UPEC board member. “Once again, we see there isn’t a single square inch of Michigan safe from the threat of sulfide mining and exploration – they’re mining under our rivers, drilling in fragile wetlands, drilling on state and national forest lands, and now drilling in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.”

In allowing exploratory drilling in the Porkies, DNR has failed to protect Michigan’s natural resources, and demonstrated a stunning disregard for the health of the land and the wishes of its citizens. “It’s up to those who care about Michigan’s future to remind state representatives and agencies (in this case the Michigan DNR) that they serve the public, not multinational mining companies intent on short-term profits at the state’s expense. This is no way to treat our unique Wilderness park,” notes Garske.

Updated 2-12-2017: photographs of the site by Steve Garske

Additional files related to Copperwood project (Orvana, Highland Copper)

Update: Michigan DNR spokesman John Pepin stated to TV6 news: “the state does not own the mineral rights and it is not a discretionary decision….” He also said that “Highland Copper notified all local government officials and tribes before exploratory drilling began on Sunday” (but not the public, or environmental stakeholders).

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Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, visit our Facebook page, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.

The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining – previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP). Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

Call for Ontario Securities Commission to Investigate Aquila Resources

 

January 27, 2017

Ontario Securities Commission
Inquiries Unit
20 Queen Street West; 20th floor
Toronto, Ontario M5H 358

Dear Sir or Madam:

We are writing regarding a possible case of fraud or misleading information by a company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The case concerns the false or contradictory statements made in Aquila Resources’ Back Forty mine permit application for an open pit gold and zinc sulfide mine to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

According to Aquila’s permit application, “The (Back Forty) Project will be an open pit mining operation” and the Life of Mine (LOM) operation is planned to be approximately 7 years but the Back Forty is actually described as a 16 year mine in every single press release published by Aquila Resources, in their letters to investors and local community leaders, and in Aquila’s communications with the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.

In the same permit application of October 2015 (p. 22) Aquila states that “The Project does not include underground mining, consequently, material damage to structures or natural features resulting from underground mining will not occur.”

This is misleading. In Aquila’s news release of January 24, 2017 (“Aquila Resources Announces $6.6 Million Non-Brokered Private Placement”) the company describes the Back Forty project “based on mining 16.1 M tonnes of measured, indicated, and inferred resources over the 16 year life of mine, of which 12.5 M tonnes will be open-pit and 3.6 M tonnes will be underground.” Significantly, the 16 year LOM is described in Aquila’s current NI 43-101 report, required by Canadian Securities Administrators.

Aquila’s mine permit application asserts that mining and milling facilities are scaled to accommodate the life of the mine, i.e. their facility is designed for a 7 year mine. By minimizing LOM, the company can misrepresent all of the mine’s impacts, including tailings capacity, size of waste rock storage areas, total limestone needed for neutralizing total waste rock, total need for importing and storing cyanide and other chemicals used in the processing of ore, total crushing and processing throughput, milling equipment capacity, water treatment plant capacity, dewatering and drawdown estimates, air pollution quantities, noise, pit backfilling estimates, remediation planning, post-closure timelines, and more.

In issuing the mining permit, MDEQ stated: “This permit allows for only open pit mining methods at the Back Forty Project.”

Aquila Resources is lying to the MDEQ by failing to accurately disclose their plans for the Back Forty project – probably because the company wants to secure a mining permit as quickly as possible, while downplaying the true environmental impacts. Aquila is focusing on mining surface-accessible ore first, because the operating and capital costs are lower—this company is cash short and needs to get a mining permit before they’ll receive an infusion of cash from their investors.

In the summer of 2016 the MDEQ sent a list of 197 questions to Aquila, addressing many errors, omissions and points of confusion about the Back Forty mine permit application. Comment # 176 asked “Mining method – preliminary assessment of underground mining showed that it is not a prudent alternative for this ore body – What is the reference for this assessment?”

Aquila’s response to the MDEQ on May 9, 2016: “The sinking of an underground mine shaft was evaluated in the 2014 Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) as reported by Tetra Tech (2014). Although the ore body was found to extend downward beyond the bottom of the pit and was deemed mineable via underground methods, the grades, quantity, and distribution of the ore types were not adequate to efficiently process in the oxide and sulfide plants.”

Aquila’s brief answer to the MDEQ’s question does not rule out underground mining, it simply states that the ore could not be “efficiently processed” using their onsite milling technology.

Immediately after the company submitted their answers to the MDEQ, Aquila made a Presentation to Investors (June 2016), contradicting most of the information contained in their mining permit application. Aquila called the mining permit application a “surface mining “ application or “PHASE 1” and stated ‘UNDERGROUND PERMIT APPLICATION WILL FOLLOW START OF COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION” which they projected to be “Quarter 4 of 2019.” Aquila provided their investors with an estimate of how much underground mining at the Back Forty will cost, compared to open pit mining.

For a company that has told MDEQ regulators unequivocally “there will be no underground mining” they have prepared remarkably detailed plans for underground mining. The mining permit application clearly contains false statements. The Back Forty mine permit application for a 7 year mine appears misleading and inaccurate, at best, and fraudulent at worst. Aquila’s clear intent—expressed in every document except their mine permit application—is to develop a 16 year mine.

If Aquila affirms that this 7 year open pit LOM is accurate, and defends the permit application, all public statements containing the Back Forty’s 16 year life of mine estimate should be viewed as baseless or fraudulent statements, designed to attract investors and gain greater political and community support.

In the interests of maintaining the integrity of Aquila Resources’ financial statements, we urge OSC to investigate the accuracy of this company’s public statements regarding the Back Forty’s 16 year life of mine estimate.

We look forward to your response to this request.

Sincerely,

Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Kathleen Heideman
Mining Action Group of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

Love Wetlands? Get Involved!

 

URGENT UPDATE:  Aquila Resources has submitted a Wetlands permit application to the Michigan DEQ. The Back Forty “Wetlands, Lakes and Streams” application was received on 1-17-17, and the permit files have been uploaded to the MiWaters system (submission #2NN-5PE0-MT3W).

Given the DEQ’s recent egregious decision to grant the Back Forty’s Mining and Air pollution permits, it is absolutely critical that we work together to scrutinize implications of the Back Forty wetlands permit. Note that a wetlands permit application was previously submitted, found to contain errors and omissions, and rescinded.

WONDERING HOW TO TAKE ACTION? Reading the Wetlands permit and taking notes is the first step. The Aquila Back Forty Wetlands permit application consists of 7 PDF files, al of which may be downloaded from the DEQ’s MiWaters website:

  • 2NN-5PE0-MT3W V1.pdf (6 pages)
  • R-Permit Application Back Forty Project Jan 2017 reduced Sections 1-7.pdf (153 pages)
  • R-Permit Application reduced Appendix A.pdf (40 pages)
  • R-Permit Application reduced Appendix B.pdf (391 pages)
  • R-Permit Application reduced Appendix C.pdf (823 pages)
  • R-Permit Application reduced Section 8.pdf (353 pages)
  • Tribal Engagement Summary for MDEQ 11_3_2016 reduced.pdf (549 pages)

Since concerned citizens have reported difficulties navigating DEQ’s MiWaters site, we are offering a second download site for the Wetlands permit application materials. See:
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BwDqaes6rJxScklsU3JtaEhfWTg

The Mining Action Group will read and review the Aquila Back Forty Wetlands Permit and prepare comments, but it is critical that YOU do the same! Please contact us if you are interested in working collaboratively on this vital issue.

Prominent U.P. Environmental Groups Merge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:
Alexandra Maxwell, Mining Action Group, info@savethewildup.org (906) 662-9987
Gregg Bruff, UPEC Coordinator, upec@upenvironment.org (906)-201-1949
Horst Schmidt, UPEC President, horsthear@yahoo.com (906)-369-3797

Marquette, MI — Two of the most respected environmental organizations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have joined forces! Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) and Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) completed a year-end merger, resulting in the formation of a Mining Action Group (MAG) within UPEC.

“This merger brings together five decades of leadership and grassroots effort. We are now truly speaking with ‘One Voice’ to protect the environment of the Upper Peninsula. We could not have done it without the dedication of board members of both groups, ” said Horst Schmidt, UPEC president.

“Our goal in this merger was to create an active, far-reaching and inclusive environmental advocacy group for the Upper Peninsula,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s outgoing president. “We are combining our strengths, and building on our cooperative efforts to protect clean water, healthy ecosystems, and wild places.”

Following the merger, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition will maintain its focus on environmental education and advocacy for U.P. wild lands. The Mining Action Group, operating as a semi-autonomous arm within UPEC, will carry on Save the Wild U.P.’s legacy of informed grassroots activism.

Founded in 2004, SWUP has become widely known for leveraging social media and providing hard-hitting public commentary on sulfide mining related permits, most recently on the proposed zinc-copper mine targeting the Menominee River and proposed expansion of the Eagle Mine in Marquette County. MAG activists will continue serving as environmental watchdogs, urging regulators to make wise decisions to protect the natural resources and public lands of Upper Michigan, educating citizens about the risks of sulfide mining and the industrialization of wild lands, reviewing permits for new mineral leases in sensitive areas, speaking out at public hearings, and working collaboratively with regional tribal nations and watershed organizations.

“During the past year, our activism took many forms,” according to Alexandra Maxwell, SWUP’s outgoing executive director. “From the first hours of 2016 until the last, we worked tirelessly opposing Aquila’s Back Forty proposal for an open-pit sulfide mine and mill on the bank of the Menominee River. We hosted forums to discuss the proposed mine, held trainings for concerned citizens, facilitated a red-flag review by the Center for Science in Public Participation, prepared evidenced-based comments for the DEQ, and more.”

“We also worked to raise awareness about wetlands and wildlands threatened by the controversial County Road 595 proposal; we hosted cultural events and boots-on-the-ground experiences including musical events and poetry readings, opportunities to explore wetlands, waterfalls and native plant habitats; and we participated in a U.P. Environmental Stakeholder Group in order to provide meaningful input on sulfide mining permits to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality,” said Maxwell.

“By contrast, UPEC’s perspective is broader and more historical,” said Jon Saari, who has served in leadership roles with both organizations. “U.P. environmental groups have vacillated about the best way to do our work. The Hard Power wing pushes lobbying, watchdogging government and industry, relentless pursuit in crisis mode, while the Soft Power wing stresses public education, strategic grant giving, and long term cultural changes.  SWUP is more in the former tradition, UPEC in the latter. Now the two approaches will be combined in one organization.”

As a member-based organization, UPEC has been helping to protect the U.P.’s great places since 1976; activities focus on community outreach through a quarterly newsletter, the annual Celebration of the U.P. event, and grant programs in environmental education and community conservation. “UPEC awarded $34,000 in grants in 2016,” said Horst Schmidt, “and going forward we want to enhance our presence and partnerships U.P.-wide.”

“This transformation enables members of the Mining Action Group to remain focused on the grassroots work of defending Upper Michigan’s clean water and wild places from the threat of sulfide mining. We’re not getting bigger, we’re getting better,” said Kathleen Heideman, SWUP’s outgoing president. SWUP leaders Steven Garske, Kathleen Heideman, Alexandra Maxwell, and Jon Saari will form the initial MAG team within UPEC.

Concerned citizens are encouraged to support the work of the Mining Action Group by becoming members of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition. The merger is effective January 1, 2017.

Media:

UPEC-SWUP event – merger announced
Jon Saari speaking at UPEC-SWUP event

Suggested caption: “In September 2016, friends of Save the Wild U.P. and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition gathered at the historic Peter White Camp as the planned merger was announced, creating the Mining Action Group within UPEC. Photograph provided by UPEC.”

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Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, visit our Facebook page, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.

The UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP). Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

Michigan DEQ Permits Sulfide Mine, Imperils Menominee River

Featured

Marquette, MI — Regional environmentalists are expressing outrage and disappointment following news that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has announced the final approval for two of four major permits Aquila Resources Inc. (Aquila) needs for its proposed Back Forty Mine Project in Lake Township, Menominee County, Michigan. The DEQ approved the company’s applications for a Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining Permit (Mining Permit), and the Michigan Air Use Permit to Install.

On December 28th, the DEQ published a press release headlined “Aquila Back Forty project gains conditional approvals by MDEQ; faces significant remaining hurdles; this press release disappeared midday, replaced by a second press release titled “Aquila Back Forty project gains two permit approvals by MDEQ.” The revised press release does not use the phrases “significant remaining hurdles” or “conditional.” 

“I’m disgusted by the process as well as the decision. Key stakeholders were not notified, including neighboring residents, tribal governments and environmental groups who’ve been involved for over a decade” said Kathleen Heideman, outgoing president of Save the Wild U.P. “Financial assurances that should have been established in the draft permit were just added, but now there’s no opportunity for public input as to their adequacy. There’s still no final permit for the mine’s wastewater discharges to the Menominee River which will degrade water quality and impair mussels and sturgeon. And the whole scheme hinges on a land swap between Aquila Resources and the State of Michigan, which has never been discussed in a public hearing.”

“The DEQ is violating its own regulations by issuing this mining permit,” said attorney Michelle Halley. “The permit application is incomplete, contradicts itself, and contradicts other public statements made by the applicant. This again demonstrates the DEQ’s deeply flawed permitting process.”

“Once again, it seems that the Michigan DEQ has set aside the wishes of the people, environmental concerns, and common sense, in order to help special interests pursue their objectives. It is apparent that the DEQ did not thoroughly review the information gathered during the public comment phase of this process,” said Ron Henriksen, spokesman for the Front 40 environmental group.

“No one, including the DEQ’s mine permit review team, was able to consider the project’s cumulative impacts to the Menominee River and wetlands because a wetland permit has not yet been submitted. The rerouting of River Road, still to be determined, promises to further impact riparian wetlands, the floodplain and cultural sites belonging to the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin,” said Heideman. “These are not ‘special conditions’ as the DEQ has implied. These are statutory requirements.”

“The DEQ’s approval is counterintuitive,said Alexandra Maxwell, member of the Mining Action Group. “Considering what will be destroyed – cultural properties and trust resources of the Menominee Tribe, fragile wetlands, water quality and the people’s trust in state government and due process – this decision is a betrayal. Once more, Michigan’s environmental regulators, who are trusted to enforce and protect the environment, have fallen far short of the mark.”

“This mine poses a grave threat to the water and land in the area. The edge of this open pit will come within 100 feet of the Menominee River. The DEQ is operating under the assumption that nothing catastrophic can occur. When there is a flood, acid mine waste will end up in the river and ultimately Lake Michigan. What will happen to recreational fishing? What will happen to the lake sturgeon, which have been rehabilitated through a $7 million project? What happens to the drinking water for downstream communities?” asked concerned citizen Nate Frischkorn.

“Shakey Lakes savanna, adjacent to the Aquila Back Forty mine site, is the largest and most intact oak savanna left in Michigan, and home to numerous rare, threatened and state-listed species. At the time of European settlement oak savanna was one of the most common habitats in the upper midwest, covering some 30 million acres. With less than 0.02% left, savanna is now one of our rarest landscapes. In 1990, this area was recommended for designation as a National Natural Landmark. The DEQ’s shortsighted decision to grant a mining permit here will further degrade one of Michigan’s rarest and most unique places,said botanist Steve Garske.

“The DEQ has a strange understanding of stewardship. Risky mining ventures, under and next to U.P. rivers, get permit approvals, in the face of widespread opposition from residents, Native American tribes, recreationists, and concerned citizens. Will the DEQ ever interpret a mining proposal as inadequate? Instead, we see more public land and waterways held hostage to industrial projects, more cuts into an already wounded landscape,” commented historian and Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition board member Jon Saari.

Environmentalist claim the Back Forty mine permit application was fraudulent. According to Heideman, “Aquila lied to regulators about the extent of their planned mine, to streamline the process. Aquila applied for a 7 year open pit mine and told the DEQ that NO underground mining would take place. But Aquila is promising something very different to international investors and local business leaders, saying the Back Forty is “two mines” — an open pit and an underground mine, with a combined life of 16 years. It is illegal and fraudulent to lie in a permit application. The Back Forty application should have been denied a year ago, on that basis alone.” Aquila’s corporate press release, published on December 29th, once again describes the Back Forty project as having a “16-year life of mine, of which 12.5M tonnes will be open-pit and 3.6M tonnes will be underground.” The mining permit granted by the State of Michigan is for a 7 year open pit mine only.

Two key permits are still needed before the Aquila Back Forty project can proceed: a NPDES permit authorizing the discharge of the mine’s industrial wastewater to the Menominee River, and a wetland permit, regulating the impairment and destruction of wetlands. The NPDES permit is “under consideration” according to the DEQ, given unresolved concerns raised by concerned citizens and the Environmental Protection Agency. Oddly, the “revised” DEQ press release states that a Wetlands permit application is also “under consideration,” despite the fact that the original application contained numerous errors and omissions and was rescinded, and a new application has not yet been submitted.

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Founded in 1976, the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s purpose remains unchanged: to protect and maintain the unique environmental qualities of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by educating the public and acting as a watchdog to industry and government. UPEC is a nonprofit, registered 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, call 906-201-1949, see UPenvironment.org, visit our Facebook page, or contact: upec@upenvironment.org.

Previously known as Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), the UPEC Mining Action Group (MAG) is a grassroots effort to defend the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. Contact the UPEC Mining Action Group at info@savethewildup.org or call (906) 662-9987. Learn more about the Mining Action Group at miningactiongroup.org or follow MAG’s work on Facebook or Twitter.

Message to Friends and Supporters!

Dear friends,

Success! As many of you know, Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP) has joined with the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) to create within UPEC the Mining Action Group (MAG). MAG is a 100% volunteer, grassroots effort defending the clean water and wild places of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the dangers of sulfide mining. MAG is a new semi-autonomous arm of UPEC; the leadership team includes Alexandra Maxwell, Kathleen Heideman, Jon Saari, and Steve Garske.

As activists, MAG will continue to build on Save the Wild U.P.’s legacy. We serve as environmental watchdogs, urging regulators to make wise decisions to protect the natural resources and public lands of Upper Michigan, educating citizens about the risky business of sulfide mining and the industrialization of our wild lands, reviewing and objecting to permits for new mineral leases in sensitive areas, speaking out at public hearings, and working collaboratively with regional tribal nations and watershed organizations. During the past year, SWUP activists achieved many noteworthy accomplishments, including:

  • Opposing Aquila Resources’ Back Forty proposal to construct a large open-pit sulfide mine and mill on the bank of the Menominee River, the U.P’s largest watershed:  hosting forums, training activists, facilitating a red-flag review of the mining permit by Center for Science in Public Participation, and preparing evidenced-based comments.
  • Objecting to the County Road 595 proposal which threatened fragile wetlands and watersheds, and the Marquette County Road Commission’s lawsuit against the EPA.
  • Hosting cultural events and boots-on-the-ground experiences including inspired musical events and poetry readings, opportunities to explore wetlands, waterfalls and native plant habitats.
  • Participating in the U.P. Environmental Stakeholder Group in order to provide meaningful input on sulfide mining permits to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Your active involvement and generous support has always made our work possible, and we ask you to help us continue defending the U.P.’s clean water and wild places!

As a member-based organization, UPEC has been helping to protect the U.P.’s great places since 1976. We ask you to support the Mining Action Group by becoming a UPEC member. For a minimum donation of $25, you’ll receive an annual UPEC membership, a year’s subscription to UPEC’s quarterly newsletter, Mining Action Group updates, and a free invitation to attend UPEC’s annual “Celebrate the U.P.” event.

* If you prefer mailing in a donation, click here to download this letter and print the donation form (pdf).

Join us! With ONE VOICE Working Together to Protect the Upper Peninsula,  

Kathleen Heideman, Mining Action Group

Horst Schmidt, UPEC President

Sing the Wild U.P.

Featured

Welcome and thank you for your interest in our Sing The Wild U.P. songwriting competition! Sing The Wild UP is a video submission based songwriting competition sponsored by The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition/The Mining Action Group. Songs must be inspired by a love for the Upper Peninsula or make a statement about the importance of conserving our land’s natural beauty and resources. These songs may be written in protest to environmental issues and threats or may simply give a voice of appreciation for our land. This competition is open only to residents of The Upper Peninsula. Please view the links below for more information.

Contest Rules and Guidelines – these are important!

Submission Form – can’t go far without this one!

Pay Entry Fee – certainly can’t go far without this one, either!


Meet our Judges!

Kim Parlato and the Nerdfighters

The Marquette Senior High School Nerdfighters are a group of service-minded students inspired by the activism of brothers John and Hank Green, who – as the VlogBrothers on YouTube and as themselves in real life – have been speaking out for truth, justice, and decreasing world suck. Musicians, writers, artists, and overall good human beings, the MSHS Nerdfighters organize the MSHS food drive for local food pantries and celebrate the talents of their peers by hosting “Music in the Mornings” in the MSHS Library, which provides attendees with free coffee and inspired entertainment by school music groups. This year, the group also collected books for the Marquette-Alger Reading Council’s Gift of Reading program and is working toward establishing a mural proposal protocol to ensure the walls of MSHS become covered in student art. These Nerdfighters are advised by English teacher and Marquette musician Kim Parlato, who fancied herself a singer-songwriter in one of her (many) former lives before she dedicated herself to the education of the Upper Peninsula’s amazing young people.

Ben Weaver 

Be outside – Protect the land and water – Sing while you do it. Songwriter/Poet Ben Weaver travels by bike crafting human powered musical expeditions. Recently Ben’s expeditions have taken him down the length of the Mississippi River, around Lake Superior, across the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and throughout the Netherlands. Ben has released eight albums of original music and four books of poetry. Given the choice, he will side with the animals, the lakes, the streams and the trees.

Michael Waite

Michael Waite’s songwriting is thoughtful Americana without any glitz, both brutally and joyously honest. A classically-trained singer, he lives with his family in Michigan’s Huron Mountains and enjoys a repertoire of hundreds of songs ranging in style from Irish folk to bebop. His delivery of his own songs and original interpretations of others is influenced by his first musical exploration, the jazz trombone.


Prizes
First Prize:
The winning song will be performed live at the Ore Dock brewing Company on Friday, March 24th at the kickoff event to the Annual Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Celebration! Then, you’ll get to record your winning song at Da Yoopers Studio! The top song and artist (or band) will get to work with local musicians/sound engineers Jesse DeCaire and Jim Bellmore of Da Yooper Studio in Ishpeming, Michigan. If the additional recording of songs is desired, a package price can be worked out at the time of recording. Mixing and a basic master of the winning song are included in the prize and a CD copy will be provided of the song at the end of the session. While a specific amount of recording/mixing time is not stated in the prize and will be very flexible and will depend on the availability of all participants, we ask that the scope of the recording be kept to a reasonable time frame (unless as stated above additional studio time was purchased).

Second Prize:
The second place song will be performed live at the Ore Dock Brewing Company on Friday, March 24th at the kickoff event to the Annual Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Celebration! Second place winners will also receive a $200 cash prize.

Third Prize:
The third place song will be performed live at the Ore Dock Brewing Company on Friday, March 24th at the kickoff event to the Annual Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Celebration and the winner will receive a gift card to Jim’s Music of $50.

Honorable Mention:
We will also celebrate an honorable mention for outstanding performance! This song will be performed live at the Ore Dock Brewing Company on Friday, March 24th at the kickoff event to the Annual Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Celebration and the winner will receive a musician’s gift basket, all the goodies a budding musician needs!


 Have Questions?

Contact Alexandra Maxwell at miningactiongroupUPEC@gmail.com or Rebecca Rucinski at rebeccalrucinski@gmail.com

Dancing for the Earth

Don’t miss Dancing for the Earth – a benefit to support the work of Save the Wild U.P. / Mining Action Group! Join Carrie BiOLO and Maria FormOLO as they explore the elements of the Upper Peninsula winter wonderland through dance, sound, movement, and visual imagery in Dancing for the Earth. The first performances will take place next Wednesday, December 21 – the Winter Solstice – near the Gazebo on Presque Isle in Marquette, MI. Two performance times: 4:45-5:15pm (sunset), and 7-7:30pm. Suggested donation $10.00 or what you can give. Performances are tailored to the environment and the weather. THIS EVENT WILL NOT BE CANCELLED. No matter the weather, the dancers will celebrate the wild splendor of Lake Superior and Winter Solstice!

OLO has teamed up with local like-minded organizations like Save the Wild U.P. and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition for a season of special nature benefit events:

December 21 Wed. Winter Solstice: Save the Wild UP, near Presque Isle Gazebo. 4:45-5:15pm & 7-7:30pm
January 12 Thurs. Full Moon: Cedar Tree Institute, Presque Isle pavilion. 7pm- 8pm
January 28 Sat. New Moon: tba
February 11 Sat. Full Moon: OLO performing at Rhino Fest in Chicago performing a new version of Superior Elements first premiered in Marquette on Lake Superior Day and other works.
February 26 Sun. New Moon: Percussive Attack Camp, near Presque Isle Gazebo. 5pm-6pm with young percussionists
March 12 Sun. Full Moon: tba
March 18 Sat.: Van Riper Snowshoe Hike see DNR website for location off 41 near Michigamme, 7-9 pm
March 21 Tuesday.: Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, at the Presque Isle Park Pavilion, 7-8 pm

Additional pop-up performances are scheduled around full and new moons in surprise locations. Contact cbiolo@sbcglobal.net for more details on dates/times/locations and how you can be involved in the pop-up performances!


Curious about their work? Check out this video from last winter’s performance, Running Toward the Light, part of a 100-day project. Carrie and Maria performed a series of outdoor weekly events from Dec. 21, 2015 – March 21, 2016. Each event ran around 30 minutes with the exception of a 3-hour continuous event with the music of gongs, bells and a tuned ice xylophone made by Carrie and dance by Maria at Glacier Glide. The performers were costumed spectacularly and well underdressed. Each event was tailored to the environment and the weather.

See carriebiolo.com for video clips and information on Running Towards the Light Project

Testimonials by those who attended Running Toward the Light:
It was marvelous. . . Glad we saw and heard you! Felt like in some exotic land! – Christine Saari
Wonderful Creativity! Looks beautiful, magical, and coooold! – Dort Schlientz
I loved it!!!! – Gray Louise Phillips
Talent, beauty and mystery! – Elizabeth Yelland
We were in awe of your music last night. Thanks! – Cathy Church

SWUP’s Final Comments on Aquila Resources Mining Application

Save the Wild U.P., along with many regional environmental organizations and The Menominee Tribal government submitted extensive public comment on Aquila Resources mining application in February, 2016, including a red-flag review completed by the Center for Science in Public Participation. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received thousands of comments on the dangers posed by an open-pit sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River; so many in fact, that they sent an extensive list of 197 questions to Aquila Resources requesting answers to issues surrounding financial assurances, water treatment plant design, potential harm to state and federally listed species of plants and animals, to name a few. Aquila responded to these questions, offering explanations and justifications of their original answers in the mining application, but no solutions to the significant issues raised by concerned citizens. Save the Wild U.P. had issue with the fact that the answers provided by Aquila resources were inadequate and that the mining application was never edited or revised to reflect the concerns raised by environmental organizations, Menominee Tribal leaders and the Center for Science in Public Participation, so we submitted further questions and concerns to the DEQ during the most recent public comment period.

Here is an example of some of SWUP’s most pressing concerns regarding the mining application, but you can read them in full by clicking here.

“Save the Wild U.P. strongly objects to the State’s proposed “decision to grant a Mining Permit” to the Aquila Back Forty project in the absence of a publicly reviewable Wetland Permit application—

  • The mine proposal conflicts with federal policy protecting wetlands. Based on a review of the draft Wetland Permit, now rescinded, this mining project will result in the direct destruction of regulated and unregulated wetlands, resulting in the impairment and degradation of surface and groundwater.
  • It would irreversibly harm a globally significant and state-endangered oak-pine savanna area.
  • It would harm endangered, threatened and special concern species, including sturgeon, mussels, the Northern Long-eared Bat, dwarf milkweed and the Pitcher’s thistle.
  • It is not in the public interest, would impair tribal resources, and would result in an uncalculated loss of ecological services.
  • Aquila Back Forty wetlands destruction and NPDES-related water quality impairments will have adverse impacts on freshwater fisheries, aquatic life, wildlife, human health and welfare, environmental justice and special aquatic sites.

We formally request that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reject the Aquila Back Forty Mining Permit Application and EIA as misleading and inadequate. We ask that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reject the proposed land exchange of Escanaba State Forest lands for the Aquila Back Forty project. We further request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency veto and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deny any Section 404 permit that would allow Aquila Back Forty to degrade the Menominee River and the riparian corridor through industrial wastewater discharges and/or wetlands destruction.

We request specific responses to these comments, submitted November 3, 2016, and to the extensive written comments our organization originally submitted on February 16, 2016.”

SWUP Critical of Back Forty’s NPDES Permit

Save the Wild U.P. has submitted extensive written comments to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), concerning Aquila Resources’ application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit. In their comments, SWUP outlines numerous objections to the proposed NPDES permit, noting that the discharges pose significant threats to Menominee River. The Back Forty mine proposal would construct an open-pit sulfide mine, mill and tailings basins on the banks of the Menominee River, and treated industrial discharges would be piped to the Menominee:

  • The NPDES permit proposes to use the Flambeau Mine as an example of non-polluting mine, and a model for post-closure remediation. This is a dangerous comparison —  the Flambeau Mine received multiple Clean Water Act violations, had no on-site milling operations, left behind no permanent tailings on the surface, and used no cyanide on the site.
  • The permit fails to provide a longterm treatment plan for acid leachate that will be produced closure produced during Postclosure years; it appears that leachate production will require Perpetual Care.
  • Permit fails to analyze health risks and impacts on communities who rely on fishing for subsistence, including risks from toxic heavy metals, arsenic, methylmercury, use of cyanidation, and acid mine drainage.
  • Permit fails to adequately consider alternatives to minimize environmental harm or reduce polluted seepage from permanent waste facilities.
  • The mine proposal conflicts with federal policy to protect wetlands, and circumvents cumulative review. As of November 2016, there is still NO Wetlands Permit to review in conjunction with this NPDES permit — even though a large portion of the “authorized discharges” will be contact water produced as a result of dewatering (groundwater and wetlands drawdown) at the Back Forty site.
  • The NPDES permit fails to fully evaluate pollution risks to drinking water, fisheries, and threatened species (particularly freshwater mussels).
  • The NPDES permit would harm endangered, threatened and special concern species, including sturgeon, mussels, river fingernail clams and snails. Species-specific limits were not included in the permit. Multiple pollutants have no limit — “Report Only.” 
  • Aquila Back Forty water quality impairments would have adverse impacts on freshwater fisheries, aquatic life, wildlife, human health and welfare, environmental justice and special aquatic sites.
  • The lack of an integrated permit review process, as was promised by the DEQ in January 2016, has frustrated and compromised the work of those offering technical comments on Aquila’s permit.
  • The pollution authorized by this permit IS NOT in the public interest, it degrades the Menominee River, will impair tribal resources, and will result in an uncalculated cumulative loss of ecological services.

To read SWUP’s full comments, click here.