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general faqs

Aquila Resources is a publicly traded company, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The Back Forty Mine is currently Aquila’s primary focus; however, Aquila also controls the Bend copper-gold and Reef gold projects in Wisconsin. The largest individual investor in Aquila, owning 17.45 percent of the company, is located in New York.

The Back Forty mineral deposit is a gold and zinc rich zone that was discovered in the early 2000’s. The deposit also hosts copper, silver, lead and trace amounts of other minerals. However, it’s history goes back billions of years.

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 gold, zinc, 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.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), now called Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) issued four of the main permits necessary to mine in the State of Michigan. The permits include the Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining permit (Mine permit), Michigan Air Use permit to install, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES), and the Wetlands permit. The issuance of three permits were/are being challenged in the courts.

A Michigan administrative law judge affirmed the issuance of Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining permit in his 2019 final ruling.

Due to some of the redesign features of the site, and in an effort to reduce the impact on our wetlands, we submitted an amendment to the Mine permit. The Mine permit amendment was approved in December of 2019. The issuance was challenged in the courts. However, the case is temporarily on hold.

We have obtained the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

The Air permit was issued in 2016 and our Air Permit Amendment was approved in 2019.

In November of 2020, we submitted an application for a Dam Safety permit which is part of the Mine permit. EGLE is reviewing our application at this time.

The Wetlands permit was issued in June of 2018. It too was challenged and was in the court system for over two years. The ruling was not variable and the permit has been withdrawn. Our Aquila team is strategizing to create a plan to move forward with the Wetlands permit.

The term “sulfide mining” is slang, not a scientific or industry term. 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, copper, lead and other important 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 deposit.  Most of these metals that we use in society today come from mineral deposits containing sulfide. There is no basis for describing a zinc, copper or any other mineral mine as a “sulfide mine.”

In contrast to other industries, mines cannot choose where to operate. Mining can only take place in areas where minerals are present in economically viable deposits. If a minable resource is discovered, we will work with the local community and within the mining regulations to access the ore body using modern mining practices. Today, 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.

As of Q2 2019, more than $95 million to date has been spent on development of the Back Forty Mine. Construction of the mine is estimated to be greater than $260 million.

Early on, Aquila representatives met with Menominee and Hannahville members at the mine site to discuss their concerns, as well as the results of the archaeological surveys. Back Forty Mine will not disturb any identified cultural resources. To ensure the protection of cultural resources, we’ve created 30-meter buffer zones around established resources. Our permit includes an Unanticipated Discovery Plan in the event of a finding a cultural resource during operation. We are committed to respecting and protecting these significant cultural resources.

The fiduciary responsibility for reclamation falls to Aquila. We are committed and obligated by law to ensure that the costs of reclamation do not fall on the local community or taxpayers. Aquila is required to secure a bond based on the assessed value to close the mine and reclaim it properly. Assurance must be in place before construction can begin. Every three years, financial assurance will be reviewed to account for any changes in the total reclamation cost. The State of Michigan has full control of the bond until Aquila completes their fiduciary duty.

  • Zinc: Zinc is currently the fourth most widely consumed metal in the world after iron, aluminum, and copper. It is used in galvanizing steel, making luminous paints, fluorescent lights and x-ray screens.
  • Copper: Because of its excellent electrical conductivity, copper is most often used for electrical equipment such as wiring, motors, and telecommunication links.
  • Gold: Of all the minerals mined from the Earth, none is more useful than gold. While a majority is used for jewelry, it plays an important part in dentistry, electronics, computers, and aerospace.
  • Silver: Silver is a precious metal invaluable to batteries, dentistry, glass coatings, LED chips, medicine, photography, photovoltaic (or solar) energy, RFID chips (for tracking parcels or shipments worldwide), semiconductors, touch screens, water purification, and many other industrial uses.
  • Lead: The main uses for lead include ammunition, oxides in glass and ceramics, casting metals, and sheet lead.


Many factors influence the market value of a home or property, including circumstances separate from the real estate itself. The presence of a mine may drive away some buyers and attract others. In some cases, employees of the mine buy or build homes closer to the facility. This issue came up in Marquette County when a mine was being constructed there. The data shows that property values were not impacted.

There will be approximately 350 positions needed during the mine construction period which will last roughly two years. When the mine opens, the operational period will employ approximately 240 full-time jobs.

Types of employment the operation will require include: mobile equipment operators such as excavators, haul trucks, bulldozers, graders, loaders, and water trucks; engineers in fields such as environmental, mining, metallurgical, geological; process operators and support personnel; water treatment operators; maintenance personnel skilled in mobile equipment maintenance, mechanical, piping, electrical, welding, and instrumentation; safety professionals; security professionals; assay lab chemists, technicians, and sample preparation personnel; and administration personnel including clerks, accountants, payroll, accounts payable, warehousing.

Compensation will be based on skill level, experience, training, and education. The average wage of workers will be approximately $55,000 to $65,000 per year including benefits. More highly skilled positions could expect compensation packages commensurate with industry standards for Michigan and surrounding region.

In a typical year, it is estimated that we will pay over $20 million in taxes to federal, state, and local government. Initial federal taxes are estimated at $9 million, and state and local taxes are estimated at $11.6 million. Michigan’s severance tax policy requires mining companies to pay 2.75% tax. Of this, the local community receives 65%, and the State of Michigan gets the rest. The state’s portion will be directed to the Rural Development Fund (“RDF”).

The RDF was created to support projects that address rural infrastructure and development efforts within the agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas production, and tourism industries.

The mine will not interfere in recreational activities in the area. Residents will continue outdoor activities just as they did before. Access to the boat launch on the river will remain open, and fishing on the river will continue. However, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requires fencing around the boundary of the active project site. This means that during operation the area of the mine will not be available for public use.

Proper reclamation of mine site is imperative. In the case of Back Forty, the pit will be filled in with waste rock from mining and all facilities on site will be removed. We will reclaim the site to a self-sustaining ecosystem that is compatible with existing uses on adjacent properties. The tailings facility will be covered with a multi-layer composite system and revegetated. Revegetation will include indigenous species and native grasses. Post closure monitoring will last for a period of up to 20 years following completion and approval of reclamation by the MDEQ.


There would not be an impact to the mine site. The floodplain was examined extensively as part of the MDEQ’s review of the environmental impact assessment (EIA). The analysis shows that the magnitude of a flood to negatively impact the mine would be a catastrophic event on the order of a 100,000-year surge. The likelihood of a 10,000-year flood over a 50 year period is less than 0.5%. The pit is not within the 100-year floodplain due to the high bluff on the east side of the river where the mine will operate. The west side of the river in Wisconsin features the more extensive floodplain and is ultimately where a surge in water would flow.

In the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) we submitted to the MDEQ for review, we addressed potential impacts on water. The analysis shows that the open pit will lower the water table in the area that is owned by Aquila. Groundwater levels in nearby domestic wells will not be impacted, nor will groundwater levels on the west side of the Menominee River. During operations, we will implement an extensive groundwater and surface water monitoring program to validate this assessment. In the unlikely event that monitoring shows that impacts could occur to domestic groundwater, we will have contingency plans ready to be implemented.

No. The term “acid rock drainage” (ARD) refers to the natural oxidation of sulfide minerals. Together with base minerals (e.g., zinc, nickel, copper) in the rock, sulfides react when exposed to air and water. This chemical reaction can occur naturally over time, like the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park or the cliffs along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Human activities, such as mining, accelerate the process.

Past mining practices lacked an understanding of how it was formed and its consequences on the environment. Today, we have a heightened awareness and knowledge of how ARD is created, plus regulations, guidelines, and management tools to prevent its effects.

The Back Forty Mine will use multiple proven methods to mitigate the impact of ARD. We’ll mix high-grade lime with our waste rock to neutralize any acidity. Tailings, waste rock, and ore blending areas will be lined. Also, water that comes into contact with mining activities (pit dewatering, rain, snow, mill process water) will be sent to an on-site water treatment plant for processing. Last but not least, we’ll monitor water conditions throughout the life of the mine and after closure to ensure the environment, including the Menominee River, remains protected.

Today’s mining laws are designed to protect ground and surface waters. All water that comes into contact with mining activities, including rainwater and snowmelt, will be collected and sent to an on-site water treatment plant. The quality of treated water will meet all water quality standards applicable to the Menominee River.

Our permits require routine and rigorous groundwater, surface water, and wetland quality-monitoring. These programs sample at locations both at the site and offsite. Monitoring designed for early identification of any potential issues that could require examination and correction, and also ensure compliance with permit requirements. Results from testing and monitoring of the treated water will be reviewed by the MDEQ.

The Tailings and Waste Rock Management Facility (TWRMF) and Waste Rock Storage Facility are designed to prevent metals from getting into the groundwater. The facilities will feature a multi-layered pad with a leak detection system and sump. All water on site is collected is either reused in the mining process or sent to the water treatment plant for processing prior to discharging to the river.

Dust suppression and collection will be used in areas of concern when processing the ores. We will rely on haul road maintenance, speed limits, and watering to control dust from traffic areas.

The MDEQ is responsible for enforcing the mine’s permits. MDEQ representatives may enter the mine at any time for the purpose of inspecting and investigating conditions relating to the operation of the mine and associated facilities.


The entire project will cover approximately 580 acres in Lake Township. This is slightly smaller than the Menominee-Marinette Twin County Airport, which covers 600 acres. The open pit is approximately 83 acres.

It will take approximately two construction seasons to prepare the mine for operations.

The mining method that will be used is called ‘open-pit mining’, which is the process of mining a near surface deposit by means of drilling and blasting a pit using one or more horizontal benches. Once the rock is blasted, we separate the material with economic value (ore) from the material without economic value (waste rock). The ore will be sent on for further processing at the mill, while the waste rock will be sent to multi-layered storage facilities. When mining ceases the waste rock will be placed back into the pit, covered, and revegetated.

The gold ore will be processed indoors using conventional milling practices. A part of the process involves introducing cyanide in reaction vessels to separate the gold and silver from the other minerals, which is a method that has been used safely for over a hundred years. 

The water from this operation will be routed through a cyanide destruction step to degrade the cyanide to safe levels. The waste stream from the gold extraction process will be stripped of cyanide before it is pumped to the double-lined tailings management facility (TMF). Water from the TMF is sent to the water treatment plant for processing. The quality of treated water will meet all water quality standards applicable to the Menominee River.

Our team will provide a cyanide management plan addressing the handling and safety of cyanide chemicals as required by our mining permit. Also, we’ll follow the International Cyanide Management Code, which was developed by a multi-stakeholder committee under the guidance of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the then-International Council on Metals and the Environment (ICME). 

Tailings are waste by-products from the mining and extraction of resources. They consist of particles of rock, water, and leftover extraction chemicals. A multi-layered tailings management facility (TMF)  featuring a leak detection system and sump will be constructed on-site to store this material. Any water collected in this facility is sent to the water treatment plant for processing or reused in the mill process. When mining ends, the TMF will be dewatered, covered, and revegetated. This method is meant to prevent any oxygen penetration or water percolation into the facility. By doing so, the TMF will not be perpetually generating acid and will not require continual care.

A barrier between the pit and the river made with clay and cement that runs from the surface down into bedrock where it is anchored. The slurry wall is approximately 50 yards from the river and is put in place as an extra layer of protection.

The engineered double-liner system we’ll use for the Tailings Management Facility (TMF) has been widely and effectively applied by numerous industries, including mining and solid waste management. Our design adopts proven technology and meets the requirements of Michigan’s Mining Law.

The TMF features primary and secondary High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Geomembrane liners. HDPE geomembranes are known for their strength, flexibility, plus chemical and weather resistance. Each geomembrane has an estimated service life of approximately 1,000 years. Also, the liner system features overburden soil, coarse aggregate, geosynthetic clay liner, two geotextile liners, and double-sided geocomposite leak detection layer.

Construction of the TMF will not start until we provide final engineering specifications, and a Quality Assurance and Quality Control Plan to the MDEQ, and the agency provides written approval to move forward. The MDEQ will oversee construction activities and monitor the performance of the TMF throughout the life of the mine to ensure the integrity of the system.

Once mining ends, the TMF will be capped and revegetated to prevent any oxygen penetration or water percolation into the facility. Also, the tailings will be dewatered after capping. By doing so, the TMF will be near neutral pH and will not require perpetual care or treatment.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) develops and enforces safety and health rules for all of the nation’s mines. At a minimum, MSHA is required to inspect each surface mine twice a year. However, MSHA may enter the property at any time without notice.