March 2017 Newsletter
March 23, 2017
Dear WRPC Member and Friends of the Menominee River,
On December 28, 2016, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved two of the four required permits for the Back Forty proposed sulfide mine – the Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining Permit and the Michigan Air Use Permit. The DEQ is still reviewing the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and the wetlands permit.
DEQ retracts original press release and reissues one more favorable to Aquila
The original DEQ press release headline announcing the permit approvals emphasized that the project “faces significant remaining hurdles.” The press release stated “The Mining Permit is not effective, meaning no mining or site preparation may commence, until the applicant acquires all necessary permits and has provided the MDEQ with the required financial surety.” Within hours of posting this press release, the DEQ retracted the posting and replaced it with the headline “Aquila Back Forty project gains two permit approvals by MDEQ.” There was no mention of the conditional nature of the permits and that the mine was not a done deal. The first press release was entirely accurate but was not a message that would make Aquila investors confident that the mine would gain final approval. Why did the DEQ retract the original press release and replace it with one far more favorable to Aquila? Ask Joe Maki, head of the DEQ’s mining division (906) 250-4015 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Menominee Indian Tribe Challenges Back Forty Mine Permit
In February 2017 the Menominee Tribe filed a petition for a contested case hearing on DEQ’s decision to approve the mining permit for the proposed Back Forty mine. “The MDEQ and Aquila Resources Inc. are well aware of the Menominee Indian Tribe’s close cultural connection to this area and our serious concern in regards to our cultural resources and mounds, including our ancestral burial sites located within the impact area of the proposed mine. Despite these valid and well documented concerns a full evaluation of the cultural resources and mounds threatened by this project never occurred,” stated Gary Besaw, Menominee Tribal Chairman. Because Michigan is one of only two states that has been delegated authority under the Clean Water Act, the mine application process is subject only to state permits. Michigan DEQ is not required to consult with the tribe or comply with the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act.
“Save the Menominee River Speaking Tour”
The Menominee River Speaking Tour continues public education and outreach to communities in Michigan and Wisconsin. Recent stops on the tour included the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Mining Alternatives Summit at Lac du Flambeau, and the Madison Food Sovereignty Conference. Upcoming stops include Northern Michigan University in Marquette on March 27th and the University of Wisconsin-Stout on April 5th and with Winona La Duke on April 6th at the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Menominee Tribal Presentation before the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw and Menominee tribal community organizer Guy Reiter (Anahkwet) will present their case against the Back Forty project to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the end of April or early May. The Michigan DEQ’s refusal to engage the Menominee tribal leadership in “meaningful tribal consultation” regarding the protection of their traditional and cultural properties at the Back Forty proposed mine is a clear violation of their treaty rights and therefore an international legal issue of concern to all indigenous peoples.
Ontario Securities Commission Investigation of Misleading Information in Aquila’s Back Forty Mine Permit Application to Michigan’s DEQ
According to a complaint filed by the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council and the Mining Action Group (MAG) of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition, Aquila has told the DEQ that their project will be an open pit mining operation and the Life of Mine operation is planned to be approximately 7 years but the Back Forty is actually described as a 16 year combined open pit and underground 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 Tribe.
Send a letter to the Ontario Securities Commission supporting their investigation of fraud or misleading information made in Aquila’s Back Forty mine permit application to the DEQ. Send your letter to Ontario Securities Commission, Inquiries Unit, 20 Queen Street West, 20th floor, Toronto, Ontario M5H 358, Canada or by email to: email@example.com
Front 40 Meeting on Wetlands, Groundwater and Aquila’s Wetlands Permit
On March 29, 2017 the Front 40 group will sponsor a public forum at the Stephenson Annex on Highway 41 @ 9:30 am (coffee) and 10:00 am for the forum. Dr. Wendell Johnson and Dr. Keith West from UW-Marinette will be speaking on the ecological role of wetlands, groundwater storage and movement, and the recharging of surface waters and updates on Aquila’s wetlands permit application.
Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst, WI) Intends to Repeal Wisconsin’s Landmark Mining Moratorium Law
The mining industry can’t provide any examples of a metallic sulfide mine that hasn’t polluted groundwater or surface water in the U.S. or Canada so they want to repeal Wisconsin’s “Prove It First” law (www.wrpc.net/articles/al-gedicks-and-dave-blouin-mining–moratorium...). Help preserve the Mining Moratorium Law. Gather signatures on the enclosed petition to the Wisconsin legislature. Get your town, county, civic, religious or environmental organization to pass the enclosed sample resolution. Send completed petitions and resolutions to WRPC, 14 Copeland Avenue # 115, La Crosse, WI 54603.
Al Gedicks, Executive Secretary