The issue of permitting of Aquila Resources' proposed Back Forty Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula could be decided soon.
U.S. District Court Judge William Griesbach said on Aug. 1 that he would rule as quickly as possible on a Menominee Tribe of Indians' lawsuit seeking to force the federal government to take over permitting for the controversial openpit sulfide mine in the Upper Peninsula.
At issue is whether the state of Michigan or the federal government should control wetlands permitting for Aquila Resources' mine on the Michigan side of the Menominee River.
The Green Bay Press Gazette reported that permitting for the mine is currently being handled by the state of Michigan. The Menominee Tribe of Indians filed suit in January arguing that’s not allowed under federal law because the river is an interstate waterway. Should the permitting process be shifted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the process would entail a more rigorous review and ensure the tribe's concerns about the mine's potential to damage the river are considered, Tribe attorney Janette Brimmer argued.
Aquila Resources has been working for years to develop the mine so it can extract gold, zinc, silver, copper and lead. Michigan has issued most of the permits the Canadian company would need to open the mine.
Aquila and its supporters say the mine would provide jobs and an overall economic boost to an area that has depended on mining jobs for generations.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Daniel Dertke, representing the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, argued the tribe should have objected in 1984 when the permitting jurisdiction was delegated to Michigan.
But Bremer, the tribe’s lawyer, said if the tribe had attempted to sue, "we probably would have gotten arguments that they were too early."
Opponents argue that the open-pit mine, which would be 150 feet from the north bank of the river, will ruin resort and retirement properties in its immediate vicinity and threaten water quality down river and possibly into Green Bay.
Several Wisconsin counties, including Brown, have formally voiced opposition to the mine out of concerns for its potential environmental impact.
Griesbach said he would try to rule fairly quickly after lawyers submit supplemental briefs.