LEGISLATION PASSES TO IMPROVE TRANSPARENCY AND RULE-MAKING PROCESS

STEPHENSON, Mich. July 2, 2018 –Recently, a series of bills that improve transparency and the DEQ rule-making process have become law. These bills enable fact and science, rather than personal opinion, dictate permit decisions.

Senate Bills 652-654 create three independent bodies with a diverse range of topic experts. The goal of the bills is to provide a further review of permitting processes and decisions and advise on issues safeguarding the environment. Senate Bill 839 focuses on the permit amendment process.

SB 652 reestablishes an Environmental Science Advisory Board to hear scientific evidence and provide a recommendation to the governor.

SB 653 creates an 11-member stakeholder committee to review, amend, deny and approve DEQ rule notifiction.

SB 654 establishes an appeals board that, upon request, would serve as a scientific permit review panel to hear an appeal by a permit application that has been denied by the DEQ.

SB 839 clarifies the process for addressing changes in a mining permit, and allows for punctual action on changes where minimal to no adverse environmental impacts would result.


You can read a legislative analysis for SB 652-654 by clicking here.

For more information on SB 839, including the process for the new law, click here.

If you have questions about this topic or anything else, please contact us.


COUNCIL DEFEATS ANTI-MINE MEASURE

STEPHENSON, Mich. June 19, 2018 – Last evening, the Menominee City Council defeated a resolution opposing the Back Forty Mine with a 3-6 vote. You'll see a story on the meeting in today's Eagle Herald.

During the meeting Council member Frank Pohlmann said that the group had asked Aquila questions, but the questions were either unanswered or discouraging. “We are dealing with a company that is not trustworthy,” Pohlmann said.

Back in March, we responded to the Council's questions, which you'll find below.

  • The economic impact to the local taxing district, county and state.
    • In a typical year, it is estimated that we will pay roughly $9 million to the federal government and $11 million will go to state and local governments.
    • Lake Township will receive approximately $5 million per year from the MI Severance Tax that is paid by Aquila Resources. The Severance Tax equates to 2.75% of the taxable metal value, which is subject to market conditions. What this means is that these numbers will go up or down depending on the average metal price during any given year.
    • Besides monetary benefits the project will provide several hundred construction jobs and more than 240 permanent, direct jobs with an annual payroll of approximately $9.5 million. Outside of mining we estimate the project will add another 100 indirect jobs in the community.
  • Provide the logistic plan for deliver to and from the Mine operations.
    • As our mining permit states, we will use existing roads.
  • Provide all the contributions to local organizations, nonprofit, schools, governments, etc.
    • We have been providing contributions and sponsorships to the community for more than a decade. Due to changes in ownership over the years we do not have a complete record of giving. However, examples of our contributions include the Menominee Waterfront Festival, Mid County Rescue Squad, UP Whitetails Association, Marinette Menominee Area Chamber, Menominee Business Development Corp, Menominee Legion Baseball, Menominee Downtown Business Association, Menominee County Fair, and Menominee County Library. In addition, we’re continuing our high school senior scholarship program, which over the years has awarded nearly $40,000 to graduating seniors in Menominee County.

Our goal is to be open and transparent in our development of the Back Forty Mine. We would like to work with community members and local government as we move forward with our project.

If you have questions about the Back Forty Mine, please contact us.


SENATE BILLS MOVE FORWARD WITH AIM TO IMPROVE MDEQ RULE-MAKING

Sausalito, CA. June 12, 2018 -Senate Bills 652-654 proposed by the Michigan House Competitiveness Committee have been approved in the House by a narrow vote. The bill moves on to the Senate for a concurrence vote before it is sent to the governor for final approval.

At its core, the bill is aimed at improving administrative rulemaking by providing for increased transparency and accountability in the DEQ. The proposal is intended to address faulty processes in DEQ's regulation in the following ways:

  • SB 654 reestablishes an Environmental Science Advisory Board to hear scientific evidence and provide recommendation to the g
  • SB 652 would create an 11-member stakeholder committee to review, amend, deny and approve DEQ rule promulgation.
  • SB 653 would establish an appeals board that, upon request, would serve as a scientific permit review panel to hear an appeal by a permit applicant that has been denied by the DEQ.

Opposition for the bill is centered around concerns about SB 654's creation of an advisory body made up of members of companies with vested interests in DEQ decisions. Nonetheless, the bill has received wide support from various groups, including the Michigan Chambers which praises the "openness and accountability and transparency in DEQ rule-making" the bill will bring.

Source: JD Supra, LLC


BACK FORTY MINE ANNOUNCES WETLANDS PERMIT APPROVAL

STEPHENSON, Mich. June 4, 2018 – Today, Back Forty Mine (“Company”) announced that following a rigorous review process, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“MDEQ”) has issued the Company a wetlands, lakes, and streams permit (“Wetlands Permit”). The issued Wetlands Permit also includes conditions requested by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The provisions strengthen protections for water quality and other natural resources.

“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”, said Mike Welch, Chief Operating Officer of Aquila Resources.

The Wetlands Permit is the final permit required to build and operate the mine. The MDEQ previously issued the Company the Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining permit, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and the Air Use Permit to Install permit.

Back Forty Mine will commence pre-construction activities immediately. This phase includes; completion of the feasibility study, finalization of the Project Execution Plan that allows preparation for the construction and operational readiness of the Back Forty Mine, and continued discussions with prospective financial partners to secure necessary project capital to build the mine.

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ABOUT BACK FORTY MINE

Back Forty Mine is Aquila Resources’ 100% owned permitting stage zinc- and gold-rich mine located in Menominee County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Dan Blondeau
Manager, Communications
Phone (434) 906-0594
dblondeau@aquilaresources.com


SPRING 2018 NEWSLETTER

As the Back Forty Mine continues to develop, transparency and effective communication become more important. We recently published a newsletter as just one part of our effort to improve communication with the community now and in the future. It is also a suggestion we received from community members. Here’s a snapshot of where the project is today:
• The project is nearing the final stages of permitting. We look forward to regulatory approval of the wetlands permit by mid-2018.
• We’ve invested more than $90 million into the project and plan to spend more than $260 million to construct the mine.
• Drilling program results provide opportunity for future expansion.

BEYOND MINING
We want to help improve the overall economic strength of the community and the economic quality of life for all residents resulting from our mining activities. Typically, the additional tax revenues generated by a mine provide significant benefits.

In a typical year, we’ll pay roughly $20 million in taxes to federal, state, and local governments. About $5 million of those tax dollars will be distributed to Lake Township as a result of Michigan’s Nonferrous Metallic Minerals Extraction Severance Tax. The Severance Tax will disperse just like general ad valorem property taxes. What does this mean for residents? It means that there will be more money for infrastructure such as broadband and road upgrades, or new technology in schools, a local fire hall, or recreational trails.

Below you’ll find an example of the allocation of Severance Taxes to the local community during an average year.

Back Forty Severance Tax Breakdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Calculated using metal prices of $1.20/lb zinc and $1,300/oz gold. These prices are subject to change depending on market conditions.

PROJECT TIMELINE
For more than 15 years we’ve been developing the Back Forty Mine. Recently, we cleared a permit hurdle and we expect to have all permits required to construct and operate the mine by mid-2018. Now, our team is focusing on engineering and planning for construction with the ultimate destination in mind – closure.

Back Forty Project Timeline

As members of the community, we pledge to respect all people and not to harm the environment in Menominee County. We’ve used various communication techniques over the years to capture your feedback and improve the way we do business.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE TOOLS
Recently, we added a new set of Community Response tools to create even more opportunity for you to contact us. The tools will enhance and streamline the way community members notify us of feedback, concerns, and grievances about our operation. We are leveraging technology to ensure more timely responses to the community, and complement traditional communication and increase access to the Back Forty Team.

Below you’ll find two new ways to reach us. Both the phone number and online form allow you to contact us 24/7 at your convenience.

• Community Response Line (906) 451-4192
• Online Response Form backfortymine.com/contactus

Of course, you’re welcome to stop by our office during regular business hours.

If you have any questions or concerns about the information in this newsletter or any other topic, please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.


WITH FEDERAL AGENCY LETTER, BACK FORTY MINE CLEARS PERMIT HURDLE

STEPHENSON, Mich. May 4, 2018 – Today, Back Forty Mine (“Company”) announced that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) removed a majority of its objections to the Company’s wetland/stream/floodplain permit (“Wetlands Permit”). The EPA had expressed its concerns in a March 8, 2018, letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“MDEQ”).

In a letter to the MDEQ dated May 3, 2018, EPA said there is a pathway forward to resolve the remaining objections through MDEQ’s inclusion of specific conditions in a final Wetlands Permit. After reviewing the proposed permit conditions, we’re confident that we can meet the requirements.

The MDEQ has until June 6, 2018, to work with the Company to ensure that the proposed permit conditions fully address the EPA’s concerns. We’re confident that we can meet the EPA’s requirements within the prescribed timeframe.

We commend the EPA, MDEQ and our team for more than two years of hard work and careful attention they’ve dedicated to reviewing this permit. The agencies followed a rigorous process, leaving no stone unturned. The proposed conditions strengthen protections for water quality and other natural resources.

We look forward to final regulatory approval of the Wetlands Permit. This permit is the fourth and final permit required to construct and operate the Back Forty Mine.

###

ABOUT BACK FORTY MINE

Back Forty Mine is Aquila Resources’ 100% owned permitting stage zinc- and gold-rich mine located in Menominee County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Dan Blondeau
Manager, Communications
Phone (434) 906-0594
dblondeau@aquilaresources.com


Back Forty Mine Project Update

Advancing the Back Forty Mine

Greetings from Michael Welch, COO

As I approach my first anniversary with Aquila Resources and my time in Menominee County, I can’t help but reflect on the many valuable conversations and engagements that have taken place. There is a desire to grow the economy in the community and the region. From past travels and experiences, I truly understand that this should not come at a cost to the community, the environment, and it certainly should not compromise our commitment to zero harm.

We have secured the permits necessary to construct and operate the mine. As we move through the permit alignment process and initiate pre-construction activities, I encourage you to ask questions about issues you feel have not been satisfactorily addressed. I would also encourage you to ask your community leaders what more the presence of the operations can do to help build capacity and alternative growth opportunities within the community.

On that note, I am pleased to announce two community partnering initiatives: one with the Menominee Conservation District to bring soils and groundwater along with geology and mining education into local classrooms, and another with Menominee & Marinette Area Community Foundation to establish Children’s Savings Accounts with students entering kindergarten in Menominee County. The M&M Area Community Foundation has already grown this initiative to include other financial institutions and businesses which will enable the program to extend to Marinette County.

Our team’s commitment and dedication are integral to Back Forty’s success. I appreciate all their efforts and contributions, and I look forward to growing the team in the coming years.

From all of us at the Back Forty Mine, have a Happy New Year.

Permitting News

In November, we filed a mine permit amendment application with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Since the issuance of our original permit, we have refined elements of the design of Back Forty to align with the Feasibility Study and issued wetlands permit.

Examples of the revisions in the amendment application include a reduction in wetland impact, improved dust management, increased water storage capacity, and reduced footprint of tailings facilities post-closure. We continuously look for opportunities to minimize the potential impacts of our operations on the environment and community.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is holding a public meeting regarding the Back Forty Mine Permit Amendment Application on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. The meeting will take place from 6:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. CST at Stephenson High School. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public that the DEQ has received an amendment application and how to access documents, provide information about the review process, and allow community members to provide comment on the amendment. 

MDEQ will also accept written comments regarding the amendment application by mail or e-mail from the day of the meeting until 5:00 P.M. EST, Wednesday, February 6, 2019. Mail your comments to Back Forty Mining Permit Amendment, MDEQ-OGMD, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855. E-mail your comments to the designated MDEQ mailbox at DEQ- Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including "Back Forty Mining Permit Amendment" as the subject. The MDEQ will only consider comments that pertain to the Mining Permit Amendment Application prior to making a final decision. For additional information, contact Melanie Humphrey, MDEQ, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, 906-250-7564, or e-mail humphreym@michigan.gov.

For more information about the meeting and amendment documents, click here.

Legal Update

On December 19, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed the Menominee Indian Tribe’s federal lawsuit challenging EPA and U.S. Army Corps’ failure to exercise jurisdiction over Aquila’s wetland permit for the Back Forty Mine. The Court dismissed the two claims in the Tribe’s original complaint and rejected the Tribe’s motion to file an amended complaint that proposed two additional claims because the amendments would be pointless. The Court held that the Tribe could not challenge the federal government’s refusal to exercise jurisdiction over the state wetland permit under the Administrative Procedures Act or the Clean Water Act.

In November, the Coalition to Save the Menominee River filed a complaint in federal court in Wisconsin. The Coalition’s claims are basically the same as those the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin recently dismissed.

There are two separate contested case hearings on the DEQ’s approval of the Back Forty mine and wetland permits.

We are confident in our position and expect a favorable resolution in all current legal proceedings.

In the Community

Carney Schools Fire Prevention

Back Forty employees and Nadeau Township Volunteer Fire Department members John Dziedzic (left) and Noah Poupore (right) visit Carney-Nadeau School for Fire Prevention Week. The volunteer firemen spoke to classes from PreK to fifth grade about essential steps to reduce the likelihood of having a fire and how to escape safely in the event of one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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