Capacity Building Project

Capacity Building Project Announcement

At Back Forty Mine, we don't measure our success purely on exploration and production. We believe a successful project must also be an active participant in the community and share responsibility for the community's well-being. We invest in the communities within which we operate - well beyond the needs of our operations.

We started a Capacity Building project with local governments intending to prevent the boom-bust cycle of mining and ensure the community that we will operate to the highest levels of transparency. Together we will form a community agreement which boosts economic and community development, protects the environment, and increases the health and safety of employees and residents. The arrangement will also focus on providing training and emphasizing local hire.

Worldwide such agreements are considered best practice between mining companies and host communities. Further, local agreements are a part of the permitting process in Wisconsin.

“Capacity building is not just about the effectiveness of a community today — it's about the community's ability to thrive effectively in the future,” said Chantae Lessard, Aquila’s Director Social Performance and Engagement. “Capacity building is an investment in the strength and future sustainability of a community.”

For more information, email or call (906) 451-4192.

In Observance of Independence Day

Celebrating Independence Day!

We want to provide you with an update on the geotechnical drilling program we told you about in May. As you may recall, the purpose of the program is to gain a better understanding of the subsurface — it is not an exploration program. The plan has been moving along well, and we are pleased with the progress.

As the July 4th holiday approaches, we have decided to stop drilling beginning Wednesday, July 3 at 7:00 pm, and will resume on Monday, July 8 at 7:00 am. We’ll let you know when the program is complete, which we expect will run through July.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us via email at, by telephone at (906) 451-4192, or online to us.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Consolidated public hearing June 25, 2019

Meeting details

We have all of the permits necessary to construct and operate the Back Forty Mine. Since the issuance of our original mine permit in 2016, we have refined elements of the project design to be consistent with our feasibility study and previously issued wetland permit. The changes require us to amend both our mine and air permits and apply for a dam safety permit to ensure consistency across the permits.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is hosting a consolidated public hearing for the two permit amendments and one new permit. The hearing will be June 25, 2019, from 5:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. CDT at the Stephenson High School gymnasium, W526 Division Street, Stephenson, Michigan 49887.

The EGLE has published multiple resources concerning the permits, including:


Submit written comments using the information below.

Dam Permit
EGLE, Water Resource Division, Marquette District Office
1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI, 49855
Due by July 5, 2019

Air Permit to Install Modification 
Ms. Annette Switzer, Permit Section Manager, EGLE, AQD
P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760
Due July 23, 2019

Comments may also be submitted online. Click here, scroll to Aquila Resources Inc. - Permit to Install Application No. 205-15A, and click Submit Comment.

Mine Permit Amendment
Back Forty Project, EGLE/OGMD
1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855
E-mail to with “Back Forty Mining Permit” as the subject.
Due July 23, 2019

If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us via email at, call our hotline at 906-451-4192, or fill out our contact form here.



We are a primary zinc-gold mine with other minerals including silver, copper, and lead. However, the ore body happens to be in sulfide-bearing rock.

The term “sulfide mining” is slang, not a scientific definition or classification of mining. It is a term used by mining opponents to elicit concern and to confuse people into thinking that a mining company is producing something other than the base minerals needed by society, like zinc, nickel, cobalt, gold, and other essential raw materials. These metals occur naturally as sulfide-bearing mineral groups. When present in sufficient amounts they form a minable mineral deposit like the Back Forty. Most of the metals that we use in society today come from mineral deposits containing sulfide. There is no basis for describing zinc, copper or any other mineral mine as a sulfide mine.

back forty mine sulfide mining


Spring 2019 Drilling Program Announcement

Aquila Resources, Inc. will be conducting drilling activities at the Back Forty Project beginning around May 22nd, 2019. This program is expected to run for approximately two months, although we may extend the work.

You may see the mobilization of a core drilling rig and support equipment near the mine site during that time. We plan to access the drilling locations by using existing woodland roads and trails to reduce surface disturbance. Our drilling program will take place seven days per week but only during day-time hours while we are drilling near the Menominee River. Drilling will occur 24/7 for all other drill holes. We will not be drilling on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July holidays. As with past programs, we will use engineering controls to minimize noise as much as possible. However, when drilling nears the Menominee River, the sound will carry to nearby residents. We apologize in advance for this disturbance.

We will follow all of the conditions and requirements in our exploration permit. Any topsoil disturbed from drill site preparation will be stockpiled and used to restore sites to the natural grade. Brush and branches will be cleaned up or spread to naturalize the site, and we will reseed all disturbed areas per DNR Unit Manager’s specifications.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us via email at, call our hotline at 906-451-4192, or on our contact page.


Water pollution is not an option

As a mining company, we know our environmental footprint extends beyond our fence line. The most obvious example is water, which — if managed improperly — has the potential to harm the environment. Using state of the art water treatment, process control, testing, and water management capabilities we can eliminate that potential.

Early in project development, water balance models predict the amount of water necessary versus available. Process requirements, reuse opportunities, plus historical climate and hydrological data are all taken into account. The models serve as the foundation of a water management plan, which is an integral component of mine design, operation, and closure.

In an ideal situation, you would have just the right amount of water when it is needed. In Back Forty’s case, we have more water than we can use; therefore we need to collect, treat, and discharge excess water. That means our water management plan must be tailored to reflect the needs of both the facility and the community.

As a result, our plan promotes continuous improvement in the form of minimizing water loss, efficient water usage, in-process recirculation systems, and most importantly — effective water treatment.

Our mine features an on-site, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant (WTP) to ensure the treated water is safe for the environment, and even cleaner than the strict quality standards established in our NPDES permit. For example, our standard for mercury is 1.3 parts-per-trillion, or 0.0013 ng/L which much lower than the EPA safe drinking water standards and the average statewide observed concentrations in water bodies.  The WTP is designed to treat up to 63,000 gallons of water per hour. The treated water will be reused in the mining process or discharged to the environment. The plant will begin operating during construction and continue into closure.



Water that comes into contact with mining activities (e.g., mill process water, inflow to the open pit, tailings and waste rock facilities, runoff from snow and rain) will flow via gravity or pumps to lined Contact Water Basins (CWB). Design features of the CWBs include a maximum capacity of roughly 161M gallons, ability to contain a 100-year/24-hour storm event, a composite liner system, and emergency spillway to the open pit. From the CWBs, water will be pumped to the WTP to begin the treatment process.


Treatment starts with a series of reactor tanks to remove as many dissolved solids as possible from the water. A chemical reaction within the tanks causes very fine particles to bind together to form larger particles for easier removal in the following steps.

back forty precipitation


Here the particles, or solids, settle to the bottom of the tank. The solids are pumped to the mill to be combined with thickened tailings and sent to the tailings management facility. The water above flows to the filtration process.

back forty clarification water treament


The water will travel through a sequence of filters to remove any fine particles remaining after the clarifier.

The first is a multimedia filter composed of elements such as sand, activated carbon, and gravel to remove solids from the water. Multimedia filters help remove suspended solids similar to how a coffee filter traps coffee grounds and allows water to pass.

Next, the water passes through a 0.1 micron cartridge filter. For a sense of scale, a human red blood cell is about 7.5 microns wide. The tiny holes in this filter allow water to move through and stop unwanted particles from continuing.

From here, water passes through another filter with adsorbent pellets designed to collect dissolved mercury. The water we discharge to the Menominee River is required to meet the quality standard of 1.3 parts-per-trillion — try to imagine a single drop in 10 million gallons of water.

Finally, water will pass through a 0.5 micron cartridge filter to prevent any remaining particles from leaving the system. From here the water is sent to the treated water tank.

back forty mine water treatment filters


The treated water storage tank will hold the water until it is reused in the mining process or discharged to the environment. Our permit allows for the release of up to 1.52 million gallons of treated water per day. The actual amount discharged will vary by the amount of water the plant receives. We will only discharge water that meets quality standards to the Menominee River. If water does not meet permit conditions, we will return it to the CWBs for re-treatment.

An on-site laboratory will analyze water quality data necessary for both operations and process control. A third-party accredited laboratory will confirm compliance with permit requirements.

back forty mine treated water


For more than a decade, we have been studying the regional groundwater and surface water conditions. Simultaneously, we have managed a regional hydrology survey to define surface water conditions in the surrounding rivers and lakes.

Existing groundwater and surface water monitoring programs extending beyond the mine site will continue throughout operations and after mine closure. Monitoring includes water quality and the aquatic ecosystem both upstream and downstream of the discharge point to the Menominee River. Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources all determined that the conditions in our water discharge permit will protect the health of the community, wildlife and the environment — including the river.

Throughout the life of the mine, we will continue to look for ways to reduce our environmental impact. If you have additional questions or concerns, you can reach us by clicking on the Contact tab at the top of the page.


2019 High School Senior Essay Competition

The application deadline for 2019 has passed

Once again, we are offering area high school seniors a chance at $10,000 in educational scholarships. Our essay competition engages and challenges students from Marinette and Menominee Counties to learn and write about mining-related topics. Over the years, we’ve awarded nearly $50,000 in scholarships to area students.

2019 Theme

What role do minerals play in our national defense?


Mining for Tomorrow Scholarship – Eight (8) $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students with the highest ranked essays.

Clifford D. Nelson Memorial Scholarship – One (1) $2,000 scholarship is available for a student that will be attending Michigan Technological University and majoring in a mining-related field, including Applied Geophysics, Geology, Geological Engineering, Mining, and Mining Engineering.


  • Submissions must be a minimum of 500 words and may not exceed 1,000 words
  • Only one essay per student may be submitted
  • All submissions must be typed
  • Documentation of sources is required
  • Students must attach their submission in Word or PDF format


To qualify for the scholarship, students must be graduating from high school in Marinette or Menominee Counties in 2019. Home-schooled students are eligible to participate. Applicants must provide proof of admission in an undergraduate college or vocational program in 2019.

Selection Criteria

Selection criteria include writing style, content, grammar, originality, clarity, conciseness, articulation, and organization.

Submission Instructions

  • Entries should be completed online at
  • Mailed submissions must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. CST on April 15, 2019
  • Address essays submitted by U.S. mail to:
    • Back Forty Mine, Attn: Essay Competition, E807 Gerue St., Stephenson, MI 49887
  • Back Forty Mine is not responsible for lost or delayed mail or emails

Scholarship Awards and Announcement of Winners

Each student who submits a winning essay will receive an educational scholarship. There will be nine scholarships available — for a total of $10,000 in scholarship awards. The selected essay winners will be contacted directly by Back Forty Mine. A formal announcement of winners will take place during the senior awards assembly at their high school.

If you have any questions, please call (906) 753-9602 or email


Let's take a look at the Mining Life Cycle.

Ever wonder how mining operations work? A typical project goes through a series of different phases which we refer to as the mining life cycle, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities. Click on the categories below for a description of each phase.

life of mine timeline

mining life cycle exploration

In Michigan, all metallic mineral exploration and development activities on state and private property are regulated by the DEQ, including leasing and drilling. A metallic mineral lease within itself does not give a company permission to mine. If a deposit is found, separate applications and approvals will be required before mining activity can take place.

It can take years or even decades to discover a viable deposit. Geologists utilize aerial surveys, soil analysis, and drilling to determine if there is a sufficient mineral deposit to justify mining. Many factors control the economic viability of a deposit, but the most important are the grade, size, location, and demand. Exploration does mean a mine is going to be developed.

mining life cycle designDetailed studies (e.g., feasibility study) are conducted to determine the capital requirements, community context, permitting requirements, critical environmental challenges, and other information vital in moving the project to the next step. If the outcomes yield positive results, additional research and planning will take place at a more granular level. As more information is gathered, companies gain a far greater understanding of mine plans, facility layouts, infrastructure, and environmental and social impact assessments.

mining life cycle permittingAll nonferrous metallic mines in Michigan are required to submit the necessary permit applications with the DEQ Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals. The permits typically include mine, water discharge, and air. Government agencies thoroughly review each permit application and gather public input before issuing a permit. Each permit comes with conditions that must be met before, during, and after mining occurs. While these permits are a requirement for all mines, the exact details and specifications are unique for each project.

mining life cycle constructionUpon receipt of permit approvals and capital investment, the project can prepare for development. Hundreds of workers will build the infrastructure required to support the operation. Examples include roads, water treatment plants, maintenance facilities, warehouses, contact water basins, and process plants. Construction of such sites is a massive undertaking and boost to the local economy. A typical project can take 15 to 20 years between discovery and construction. See what the Back Forty Mine will look post-construction here.

mining life cycle production

Mining involves extracting large amounts of rock from below the Earth’s surface. The goal is to separate the valuable minerals from the non-economical rock.

To do this, overlying rock is blasted, and the material is placed in a truck and hauled to the surface. The material that contains valuable minerals (e.g., ore) is sent to the process plant, while the non-economical material (e.g., waste rock) is taken to the temporary waste rock facility. The waste rock will be used to backfill the pit once mining ends.

In the process plant (e.g., mill) the zinc/copper/lead ore goes through a conventional process of crushing, grinding, and floatation to separate the minerals. The gold/silver ore needs a few more additional steps before the valuable minerals are captured.

mining life cycle reclamation-postclosureWhen mining ceases, the site is reclaimed, and land is returned to a state compatible with adjacent properties. Examples of reclamation activities include removal of all buildings and infrastructure, capping and vegetating the tailings facility, backfilling the mine with waste rock. Postclosure monitoring lasts for 20 years following completion and approval of reclamation. The time may be shorter if the DEQ determines monitoring and maintenance activities to preserve the integrity of the area are complete. The DEQ requires an annual mining and reclamation report filed each year with the agency. The reports are available to the public.


What are tailings and what is Back Forty’s management plan?


We will process roughly 4,800 tonnes (5,300 tons) of ore per day onsite. We will use traditional crush-grind-float technology and equipment to separate zinc and gold from noneconomic rock. After removal of these valuable minerals, what remains is called tailings. Our tailings consist of particles of rock, water, and residual process chemicals (e.g., lime, copper sulfate, silica), and have the consistency of drywall mud. We will pump tailings to a double-lined tailings management facility (TMF). The TMF will cover a total footprint of 123 acres. During operation, the facility will be a maximum 118 ft tall, and after closure a maximum of 138 ft tall.

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Tailings Management Facility

Water management is crucial to our design. Unlike a conventional TMF, our design is neither a pond nor does it store liquid tailings. The entire base of the TMF will be compacted and double-lined, consisting of a composite primary liner and a single secondary liner separated by a leak detection system. This lining extends under the perimeter wall and the surrounding berm. The coarse aggregate above the primary liner collects the water (e.g., residual tailings water, runoff, rain, snow) and gravity directs it to an exterior sump. We will also pump water that collects on top of the TMF to the contact water basins or the mill for reuse in the milling process. As a protective measure, if we experience an extreme storm event, an emergency spillway will channel water from the TMF into the open pit. Once mining ends, the TMF will be capped and revegetated to prevent any oxygen penetration or water percolation into the facility. Also, we will dewater tailings after capping. By doing so, the TMF will be near neutral pH and will not require perpetual care or treatment.

(click to enlarge)

Performance Monitoring

Our monitoring program includes more than a dozen ongoing studies, including water balance, groundwater level and quality, perimeter wall settlement, and leak detection system analysis. Also, an engineering review by a qualified independent Geotechnical Engineer will take place on an annual basis. The performance of the facility will be reviewed closely during construction, operations, and post-closure to ensure that the design intent is being satisfied, to confirm design assumptions, and to identify any modifications that may be required.

The design mitigates known risks of traditional tailings facility construction. Similar and successful models include the Malartic Mine and the Musselwhite Mine in Canada, and the Neves Corvo Mine in Portugal. Before construction commences, the DEQ will review and approve the plan.

Tailings Management Features

  • Thickening tailings to 70:30 ratio of solids-to-water compared to traditional 30:70 ratio of solids-to-water.
  • Reducing water in tailings recycles approximately 793M gallons of water back into the milling process on an annual basis.
  • An emergency spillway channels water from the TMF into the open pit in case of an extreme storm event.

  • Incorporates modern technologies and mitigates known risks of traditional TMF construction.
  • Dewatering promotes tailings consolidation, increases tailings density, and extends strength characteristics of TMF.
  • The entire base rests above a double-liner with a leak detection system.
  • A competent and free draining perimeter wall roughly 108 ft wide made out of waste rock.


2018 Executive Summary Report
Modern Mining and the Community: The Back Forty Mine

Dr. Tawni Hunt Ferrarini, a Professor of Economics, has published her findings from a series of focus groups that she hosted in 2018. The Mining and Community Focus Groups captured community members’ perspectives and opinions on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of mining in and around Menominee County.

Dr. Ferrarini spoke with people from both ends of the mining debate, and who come from different economic, political, social, and cultural backgrounds.

To read the Executive Summary Report, go to Dr. Ferrarini’s website.