April 2016 Newsletter
April 8, 2016
Dear WRPC Member,
I just got off the phone with Joe Maki, head of the mining division of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). I asked him how many public comments his office received on Aquila’s Back 40 mine permit application. He said he didn’t know. His office logged the comments on a database but there was no tally. I said if the comments were on a database, it should be easy enough to come up with a total number. “No.” He said if I wanted to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, I could pay for copies of the documents and do my own tally.
Michigan ranks last among 50 states for its ethics and transparency
This is the kind of contempt for public participation in environmental decision-making that led to the Flint water contamination disaster. No wonder the state of Michigan received a failing grade of “F” and ranked last in a recent national study of state ethics and transparency laws by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.
Is the DEQ afraid to admit that there is widespread public concern over a proposed metallic sulfide mine so close to the Menominee River? Here’s what we know: over 800 people signed a letter asking DEQ to reject Aquila’s mine permit application because the application for a 7 year open pit mine is misleading or outright fraudulent.
Aquila submitted a fraudulent mine permit application
“Aquila’s clear intent,” according to Save the Wild U.P. (SWUP), “as expressed in every document except their mine permit application—is to develop a 16 year mine. Lacking full disclosure about the life of the mine, and their detailed plans for underground mining in two separate lobes of the orebody, the Back Forty mine permit application currently before the MDEQ is flawed and filled with inaccurate calculations, and should be administratively dismissed.”
Red Flag Review of Aquila’s Mining Application
In addition to the many citizen and tribal comments on Aquila’s mining application, SWUP asked Dr. Kendra Zamzow (Ph.D. Environmental Geochemistry) and Dr. David Chambers (Ph.D. Geophysics) of the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSPP) for an independent “red flag review” of Aquila’s mine application. Among the key issues raised by CSPP: the serious risk of Acid Rock Drainage (ARD), significant underestimation of financial assurance, the lack of water treatment design in Aquila’s application, and the erroneous comparison of closure plans to that of the Flambeau Mine in Ladysmith, Wisconsin – the Flambeau Mine had no tailings and left no waste rock on the surface. Also, detailed information concerning the alkaline treatment of tailings and the waste rock facility design was omitted from Aquila’s application.
The Front 40 environmental group: “This is not a done deal”
According to Ron Henriksen, spokesperson for the Menominee River Front 40 environmental group, “This is not a done deal. Even though MDEQ says Aquila’s permit is ‘administratively complete’, the company must comply with Lake Township’s Mineral Extraction Ordinance and Land Use Permit.” Aquila’s mine permit application denied that there were any such ordinances that applied to this project and has not addressed compliance with local zoning and Mineral Extraction requirements. “The Front 40, says Henriksen, “ will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that a metallic sulfide mine is not allowed to impact our rivers, lakes, groundwater and lands.” For more information on the Front 40, see the group’s website: http: menomineeriver.com
Sturgeon Feast & Celebration Powwow
Any pollution from Aquila’s open pit metallic sulfide mine next to the Menominee River poses a direct threat to the sturgeon population – the state’s largest species of fish that can grow to more than 5 feet. Biologists believe the Menominee River is the largest source of sturgeon for Lake Michigan. Aquila’s mine application does not address the possible impact of pollution on the lake sturgeon population and the ongoing effort to support the sturgeon population on the Menominee River. The Menominee Tribal Historic Preservation Office will present the 23rd annual Sturgeon Feast & Celebration Powwow on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the Menominee Indian High School in Keshena. The event will begin at 10:00 am with a Water Walk at Keshena Falls, followed at 1:00 pm with the First Grand Entry.
Menominee River Water Walk, April 23-24, 2016
The Menominee people reseeded wild rice at the mouth of the Menominee River this past fall. Two weeks later, the Back 40 Mine applied for a mining permit upstream from this sacred place. The Menominee people oppose this mine because it threatens the water, soil, animals, birds, fish and all living things in and around this water. The Menominee River Water Walk will take place on April 23-24, 2016 with a ceremony and taking up of the water at Keshena Falls on the Menominee Reservation. The walk will continue to the place of the proposed mine site in Stephenson, Michigan. For more information see: www.motherearthwaterwalk.com or contact Guy Reiter 715-853-2776.
Don’t forget the DNR Spring Hearings and Wisconsin Conservation Congress County Meetings, Monday, April 11, 2016 at 7:00pm
There are two important environmental resolutions on the ballot for this year’s spring hearings. The first is the repeal of Act 1, the Iron Mining Law from 2013. The second is a moratorium on new state permits for frac sand mining and processing until there is a strategic analysis of industrial sand mining.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary