The state of Michigan has issued a wetlands permit for Aquila Resources proposed Back Forty mine near the Michigan-Wisconsin border.
The permit is the last of serval needed for the gold and zinc mine near the banks of the Menominee River in Stephenson, Michigan to proceed. It was issued after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised several objections in March to the wetlands permit needed for the project.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Scott Dean said the agency was able to issue a permit that addressed those issues with several conditions, including a site-specific water budgeting model, collection of baseline groundwater and wetland data and annual monitoring.
“Of course, they also have to include state-of-the-art controls aimed at spill prevention and response to any potential pollution releases from the mining operations, including things like chemicals used and stored on the site and the storage and disposal of waste rock from the mining process,” said Dean.
The permit for the Back Forty Mine also requires Aquila to develop a plan to close the mine in a way that prevents any negative impacts to surface and ground water, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
In a statement, Aquila Chief Operating Officer Mike Welch said the permit strengthened environmental protections.
“We commend the work of everyone involved with this process. Community members, local leaders, state and federal regulators have all left their mark on this wetlands permit. This is a very significant milestone and we believe this collective effort has resulted in a robust environmental permitting process that allows us to move forward and build a world class mining operation,” wrote Welch.
Menominee Tribal Chairman Doug Cox said he’s disappointed, but not surprised with the agency’s decision. Cox said the tribe has raised concerns about impacts to their cultural traditions, archeological sites and more. He planned to review whether the permit addressed those concerns.
Aquila plans to move forward with the next phase of the Back Forty project, which includes completing a feasibility study and talking with financial partners.