STEPHENSON, Mich. September 19, 2018 – Back Forty Mine issues the following statement in response to Lake Township's proposed amendments to zoning ordinances.

"The law is clear that local governments are preempted (prevented) from enacting regulations or requiring a local permit affecting mining that contradicts or conflict with Michigan's Nonferrous Metallic Mining Regulations - Part 632. Concerning limited power is given to local units of government, they may “…regulate hours at which mining operations take place and routes used by vehicles in connection with mining operations. However, such ordinances, regulations, or resolutions shall be reasonable in accommodating customary nonferrous metallic mineral mining operations.”

Unfortunately, certain officials in Lake Township have been actively opposing the Back Forty Mine for more than a decade, and by adding illegal, costly, and excessive local regulations by way of amendments, they are attempting to prevent the project from moving forward. For years now, the Township has turned us away when we have tried to work collaboratively with them to address their concerns. The Township has gone so far as to bar officials, via a resolution, from communicating with Aquila. This censorship is both unreasonable and illegal. More importantly, this behavior is preventing Lake Township residents from having a conversation about what support this mine can provide to the community.

We remain optimistic that constructive conversations with the Lake Township Board will bring improvements that are desired by the community, and we encourage residents to have that conversation with Township officials and Aquila."

Related - Eagle Herald: Crowd packs Lake Township Hall



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


Dan Blondeau
Manager, Communications
Phone (434) 906-0594


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.


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.


By Dan Wiitala, Professional Geologist, Marquette, MI

There often exists a false dichotomy of choices that are presented for any new project development. This is especially true of resource extraction projects, such as mining for metals. Our experience has been that both sides of the issue are often presented just that way. On the pro-business side, the argument has historically been made that regulations ruin business. On the pro-environment side, the argument is typically that business ruins the environment. It then becomes “jobs versus the environment” and we are led to believe we can’t have it both ways. In actuality, both sides hold a piece of the truth, but neither is a whole truth in most cases.

Yes, regulations drive up the cost of doing business, but the upside is reducing community risk. Yes, we can easily point to places where unregulated business has resulted in environmental damage, but environmental control technology, best management practices, and cultural changes in workplace safety have greatly reduced these problems in modern project development. Both sides certainly play on fear to rally their base supporters but what can we actually expect to result from a modern mining project in our backyard?

Eagle Mine in northern Marquette County provides a case study where we have the opportunity to look back on what was predicted and what has occurred. Supporters of the mine rallied behind the economic gains that would result from a relatively large project in the county. In fact, Eagle has resulted in hundreds of local jobs, state royalties, and local taxes that have had a clear and measurable economic impact. For full disclosure, as a scientific and engineering consultant to the project, we have directly hired several employees due to the workload that our small company has had with Eagle. In turn these employees are paying rent, buying houses, and purchasing other goods and services to support a thriving local economy. Of course, unless the company makes a new discovery the mine will close in several years and the jobs, royalties, taxes, will no longer be provided by the mine. This may result in an economic contraction, so other new projects (mining or otherwise) will have to take up the slack. Change isn’t easy but inevitable, and without allowing new projects to move forward there can be no economic or community progress.

Opponents predicted many problems if mining were allowed to happen at Eagle. At the very least they suspected the project would change this remote location by making it busier, more accessible to people, and thereby diminish its remote character and qualities. Making worst case predictions, the mine permit was contested by opposition ‘experts’ who testified that the sulfide mineral orebody was so reactive that exposing it at the ground surface could result in a complete degradation of the Yellow Dog and Salmon Trout River watersheds. Some feared and promoted the idea that the acid rock drainage (“ARD”) from the mine site would literally cause these rivers to run red with similar effects that would be visible in Lake Superior.

Truthfully, we can now see the mine has changed the character of the area somewhat. The most visible change is that an all-season road now leads right to the mine, with a pavement so smooth and shoulders so wide that you may see NMU’s Nordic Ski Team roller skiing out there this summer. Finally, the new road has also changed stream quality for the better by repairing many sections of the old Triple A Road that produced a lot of sediment runoff to Salmon Trout tributary streams historically.

Eagle Mine’s operation has had absolutely no impact on surrounding watersheds. The stream quality remains excellent. Water quality is highly monitored by both Eagle and the independent Community Environmental Monitoring program. Groundwater levels and quality are also highly monitored at and around the mine site. Groundwater quality is monitored so tightly at Eagle that we have been able to detect just a few parts-per-billion concentration change in naturally occurring vanadium over one hundred feet beneath the surface of where treated water is returned to the environment. Keep in mind that the water they discharge has to be cleaner than drinking water.

As for the Back Forty project in Menominee County, the narrative of opposition has been that ARD will get into the Menominee River and destroy the water for fisheries and recreational use. This is a scare tactic and simply not true. Just like Eagle, the Back Forty project received its permit to mine under Michigan’s Part 632 Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining regulations. Extensive background data, mine site design, water treatment plant design, and on- and off-site monitoring, financial assurance, and reclamation plan are just some of the conditions included in the mine permit. If the company doesn’t meet the conditions – they don’t mine.   

A very high bar for environmental responsibility has been set through the Eagle Mine and its regulated permit conditions. Even with such regulations, the mine is profitable as reported by its owner - Lundin Mining. Local and regional stakeholders have come together to realize the benefits of the mine, reduce associated risks, and adapt to the changes that any new project brings to an area. I expect that same performance can be achieved at Back Forty through diligent work of all stakeholders.



STEPHENSON, Mich. Feb. 17, 2018 – We often get asked for an example of a metallic mine that operated and closed successfully. One such example is the Flambeau Mine, located about 1.5 miles south of the City of Ladysmith in Rusk County, Wisconsin. Below you'll find photos of Flambeau both during and after operations.

Flambeau was an open-pit mine that produced copper with trace amounts of gold between 1993 and 1997. After mining ceased the pit was backfilled and the land was returned to its original contour. Today the site is home to ample wildlife, hundreds of species of plants, and year-round recreation opportunities. The nearby Flambeau River remains protected to this day.








STEPHENSON, Mich. Jan. 29, 2018 – Flooding will not impact the Back Forty Mine. The mine is located on a small bluff above the Menominee River, outside of the 100-year floodplain. A 100-year flood is an event that has the probability of occurring once in 100 years. If such an event were to happen, studies suggest the river would reach roughly 10 feet below the top of the bluff. Also, if we experience an extreme storm event, an emergency spillway will channel water from site to the contact water basins and the open pit. The basins alone can hold 161 million gallons of water.

Since water takes the path of least resistance, it would likely spread out into Wisconsin and downriver. The MDEQ has provided a FAQ regarding the Menominee River Floodplain and the Back Forty Mine. You can access the entire FAQ on the MDEQ website.

MDEQ Floodplain Map















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