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May 11, 2021

Back Forty Mine Developer Relinquishes Mining Permits Amid Legal Setbacks

Victory: Today’s victory follows a five-year fight to protect Menominee tribal lands from destruction

Contacts

Becca Bowe, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2093, rbowe@earthjustice.org

Lansing, MI

Mining company Aquila Resources notified Michigan environmental regulators today that it will surrender mining permits and drop its efforts to reinstate its wetland permit for the Back Forty project, which would have caused impairment and destruction of the Menominee River and its ecosystem and damaged the historical and cultural resources of the Menominee people.

This victory for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, which has battled the mining plan for five years, followed a January court ruling rejecting a wetlands permit for the mine, in part because it was not in the public interest. A more recent ruling called the company’s mining permit into question.

“The position of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin has consistently been that approval of these permit applications is inappropriate without an understanding of the true impact of a proposed mine right next to the Menominee River, and we are glad to see the permits withdrawn,” said Gunnar Peters, Chairman of Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. “The proposed project site is sacred to the Menominee people and should remain protected from destruction.”

“This victory follows five years of fighting on behalf of the Menominee tribe to protect the river and the tribe’s cultural heritage, including the last intact Menominee agricultural village complex remaining in the state of Michigan,” said Earthjustice Attorney Gussie Lord. Earthjustice represents the Menominee Tribe in its legal challenges against the Back Forty mine.

Earthjustice and the Menominee Tribe will remain vigilant because Aquila Resources has announced plans to submit yet another proposal to revive the ill-conceived project. 

“The state of Michigan should realize that Aquila Resources has never been honest, nor transparent, about its plans, and that this project cannot be built without pollution, impairment, and destruction of the Menominee River and its ecosystem,” said Lord.

Background

In January, a Michigan administrative law judge denied a wetlands permit for the Back Forty mine, ruling in favor of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and noting that “the project is not in the public interest” and will have negative effects on surrounding cultural and historic resources. The permit would have allowed mining company Aquila Resources to fill, excavate, and drain Menominee River wetlands in the process of constructing an open-pit mine and ore-processing facility, significantly lowering the area groundwater table, irretrievably devastating area wetland ecosystems, and contaminating the river with acid-mine pollution.

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