Michigan's Nonferrous Metallic Mining Regulations

Michigan's Part 632

Michigan’s nonferrous metallic mining regulations (Part 632) guide the construction, operation, closure, and post-closure of mining operations. The law also guides monitoring, reclamation, and remediation of nonferrous metallic mineral mines in the state of Michigan. Before Part 632 passed in 2004, Michigan’s then-governor formed a workgroup to discuss increased ecological protection if mining took place. The group comprised of the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, environmental groups, industry, the Michigan DNR, Michigan DEQ, and Eagle Mine (formerly Rio Tinto). Today, Part 632 is considered one of the most stringent mining laws in the United States. Several states in the Midwest have studied Michigan’s law when updating their own rules. The link below will take you to an overview of Part 632. The mining law is a great document to review if you have interest concerning mining in your community.

Overview of Part 632


RETHINK MINING

There are two ways to look at mining. The first is to see it as an old and declining industry that has caused historical environmental concerns. The second way to see it as an industry that continues to evolve and fuel the technological advances that define medicine, communication, manufacturing, and our way of life.

Mining worldwide hasn’t always effectively managed environmental impacts. Understandably, this causes distress for some concerning mining in their community. Today’s techniques and regulations are meant to address these issues. In just the past few decades water treatment standards, materials management, and safety requirements have changed dramatically. Mining is no longer the labor-intensive, dirty industry of the past. Programs that drive innovation, technology advancement and efficiency are the foundation of modern mining.

At the Back Forty Mine, we are developing a mining operation that protects and minimizes impacts to our environment, promotes sustainable benefit for communities and stakeholders, and inspires commitment to a safe, injury-free workplace for all workers, every day.

If you have questions about our project, please contact our Community Response Line at (906) 451-4192, email info@backfortymine.com, or visit us online.

Go to the American Exploration and Mining Association's website for more information on modern mining.

Rethink Mining Back Forty Mine


WHAT IS A NATIONAL POLLUTANT DISCHARGE ELIMINATION SYSTEM (NPDES) PERMIT?

Back Forty Mine NPDES

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants through a point source without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. A point source is any source that is ‘discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, such as a pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, discrete fissure, or container.’ The purpose of the permit is to ensure that a facility meets a state's mandatory standards and the federal minimums for clean water.

The Back Forty Mine requires this permit to discharge treated water to the Menominee River. Permit conditions place limits on what we can release, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharged water does not harm water quality or people's health. The MDEQ, EPA, and the State of Wisconsin have reviewed and determined the water we release will meet all water quality standards applicable to the river.

Other facilities that require NPDES permits include power plants, municipal treatment plants, manufacturers, and recycling facilities. The permit is valid for five years and is available for renewal to allow the discharge to continue.


CREATION OF THE BACK FORTY DEPOSIT

The Back Forty deposit was formed roughly 1.8 billion years ago around a hot spring on the seafloor. In this type of environment, hot water with high concentrations of dissolved metals and sulfur vent onto the seabed and mix with frigid seawater. The change in temperature and chemistry cause the metallic elements including zinc, gold, and copper to bind with other minerals and settle onto the seabed as metal-bearing minerals. Over the course of time, this accumulation can turn into an economic mineral deposit. Several mineral deposits of this type have been found in our region; including Flambeau, Crandon, Bend, and Lynne.

Scientists first discovered these types of deposits in the 1970s while exploring the Galapagos Islands. The researchers learned that large numbers of organisms depend on the ecosystems formed around these hot springs in the ocean floor. Tubeworms, orange shrimp, eel-like fish, bacteria, and many other deep-sea creatures can be found among the springs.


SPILL PREVENTION AND RESPONSE

State and Federal mining regulations provide criteria and guidance for construction, operation, and reclamation of mining operations. Our mining permit requires us to evaluate risks and response measures should an incident occur, such as a spill. We must ensure that any spill is addressed immediately, and dealt with care, to minimize the impact on people and the environment.

It may seem obvious, but the best way to treat a spill is to avoid having one in the first place. To do so, we'll provide employees with the appropriate training to recognize hazards, including the steps they need to take if a spill occurs. We will utilize secondary containment for bulk storage tanks, regularly inspect equipment and document findings, and have Safety Data Sheets (SDS) available for each chemical on site.

In case of a spill on-site, we'll use spill response equipment such as absorbent materials and remove impacted soils. If there is a spillage of concentrate (e.g., processed zinc, copper) outside of the mine property, we will clean up the material and remove affected soils. Following all regulatory requirements, the impacted area will be tested and monitored to ensure that the required clean-up is successful. Also, we will notify the appropriate authorities.

At least once a year we will hold mock field exercises so that if anything were ever to happen, we would be prepared to respond. We will involve local emergency responders in such activities.

As our project progresses, we will review and update our risks and mitigation measures to reflect operations.


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WASTE ROCK AND TAILINGS

Waste rock

Waste rock is bedrock that has been mined and transported out of the pit but does not have metal concentrations of economic interest. Tailings are the finely ground residuals that remain after the mill process has removed the valuable metals from the ore. Because the waste could affect surface water and groundwater, the waste facilities must limit those impacts to comply with regulatory standards. During mining, we will place all waste rock and tailings on engineered liners similar to those used by community landfills or industrial solid waste disposal facilities.

During closure, the waste rock will be used to backfill the mine pit. The tailings and any remaining waste rock will be covered and monitored per Michigan's mining regulations.

 


WHAT IS A SUPERFUND SITE?

Since 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, has directed the cleanup of hazardous waste sites and responded to local and nationally significant environmental emergencies. The program focuses on a few specific areas: manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites.

The mining facilities on the list include historical operations. Many of these sites began operations in the 1800s and early 1900s and were closed or abandoned.

Today we talk about 'modern' mining and the advancement of our industry. According to the EPA and National Mining Association, the modern era of mining dates back to the 1990s (EPA, 2018). It is during this time that facilities started operating under current management practices and present-day environmental regulations.

The total number of hard rock mines permitted in the U.S. since 1990 is nearly 3,400 (Baird, 2018). None of the sites are on the Superfund list.

Unlike past mining, today the industry is safer and more environmentally friendly than ever before. Water treatment and reclamation activities are an upfront, essential part of project development. Companies are required to provide financial assurance before starting any construction or mining activity. Assurance acts as security for the community, seeing that the State has the right amount of money available to close and reclaim the site at any given time if the company is unable to do so. It also protects taxpayers and the community from these obligations.

Like many industries, mining has evolved. We have the technology available and experience necessary to ensure that mining is safe and protective of the environment – meaning we can have both a strong economy and clean environment. For example, the Flambeau Mine (seen below) is a model for how today’s mining companies operate and successfully close operations, while protecting the environment.

The Flambeau Mine, located along the shores of the Flambeau River near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, operated from 1993 to 1997 and was reclaimed by 1999.

At Back Forty, we’re designing a modern mine. We will be a world-class mining operation that protects and minimizes impacts to our environment, promotes sustainable benefit for communities and stakeholders, and inspires commitment to a safe, injury-free workplace for all workers, every day.


WE'RE HIRING FOR A FACILITIES MAINTENANCE TECHNICIAN

STEPHENSON, Mich. July 16, 2018 – Aquila Resources is hiring for a Facilities Maintenance Technician at the Back Forty Mine in Stephenson, MI. A complete role description can be found here.


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.


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.