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Protecting the Menominee River from the Back Forty Mine

The Menominee River.

The Back Forty project site borders the Menominee River and is located within a Menominee cultural landscape that includes tribal burial grounds, ancient agricultural sites and ceremonial sites of cultural significance to the Menominee Tribe.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / CC BY 3.0

What’s at Stake

The pit would span 84 acres and be 750 feet deep under current plans, stretching far beneath the river’s natural waterline and affecting hydrology throughout the area. In addition, the complex includes a huge processing plant, two large holding ponds for hazardous mine waste and substantial slag piles of overburden from the mining process.

Overview

The Back Forty project is an open-pit mine and minerals-processing facility proposed by Aquila Resources, Inc. The proposed mine pit is no more than 50 yards from the Menominee River, which flows into Green Bay in Lake Michigan. The pit would span 84 acres and be 750 feet deep under current plans, stretching far beneath the river’s natural waterline and affecting hydrology throughout the area. In addition, the complex includes a huge processing plant, two large holding ponds for hazardous mine waste and substantial slag piles of overburden from the mining process.

This massive undertaking is an unacceptable risk to the region’s wetlands and waters. The Great Lakes represent more than 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, and 95 percent of the fresh surface water in the United States, with millions of people relying on these waters—commercially, and for drinking water, from tiny towns to cities like Chicago. At least seven counties in the region—including the host county of the Back Forty project—have passed resolutions opposing the mine development.

Further, the proposed mine site has invaluable historic and cultural significance to the Menominee Tribe, which has deep ties to the river that bears the Tribe’s name.

The Tribe’s concerns include the federal agencies ignoring their federal trust and treaty responsibilities to the Tribe and, in effect, allowing the project to skirt key cultural and environmental-protection steps in the permitting process, when they should be providing critical oversight for a project this large with such great potential risks to public health and the environment.

Case ID

3526

Case Updates

January 22, 2018 | Legal Document

Back Forty Mine Complaint

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, asks the Court to require the federal agencies to assume primary control over the wetland permit and permitting process from the State of Michigan.

November 6, 2017 | Legal Document

60 Day Notice of Intent to Sue Back 40 Mine Project

On behalf of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (the “Menominee Tribe”), we ask that you take immediate action to remedy ongoing violations of a non-discretionary duty under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). As fully described below, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) are in violation of their mandatory duties under the Clean Water Act Section 404 (33 U.S.C. § 1344), due to their failure to exercise jurisdiction and regulatory authority over navigable waters of the United States—the Menominee River and adjacent wetlands—that are not delegable to the State of Michigan under 33 U.S.C. § 1344(g). This letter constitutes a 60-day notice of intent to file a citizen suit against EPA pursuant to Section 505 of the CWA, 33 U.S.C. § 1365(a)(2).