A Michigan Administrative Law Judge has denied a destructive wetland permit for the Back Forty Mine, ruling in favor of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, and noting that “the project is not in the public’s interest” and will have negative effects on surrounding cultural and historic resources.
The permit would have allowed the mining company Aquila Resources to fill, excavate, and drain Menominee River wetlands, in the process of constructing an open-pit mine and ore-processing facility, significantly lowering the area groundwater table, irretrievably devastating area wetland ecosystems, negatively impacting wildlife, and contaminating the river with acid-mine pollution.
The denial is largely based on the lack of information on the project’s environmental impacts. The Judge found that Aquila Resources failed to include information on how the mine would affect area wetlands and water resources. The decision also reflects that the mine will have a negative effect on the numerous cultural resources surrounding the proposed project site.
Members of the Menominee Tribe regard the Menominee River as a sacred waterway, and their place of origin. Aside from causing pollution that would harm aquatic life, and endanger public health, the copper and zinc mine would destroy ancient Menominee sacred sites including dance rings and burial mounds lining the river’s banks.
“Menominee Tribe is pleased with the decision of the administrative judge, as it recognizes that significant questions about the Back Forty Mine Project permitting process,” said Joan Delabreau, chairwoman of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, in a statement.
“The Judge’s decision confirms the Menominee Tribe’s concerns about the threats of the Back Forty Mine project to the water, human health, wildlife, downstream communities, the environment, and our Menominee cultural sites. This is a win for the Menominee River, the people of Wisconsin and Michigan, and Menominee Tribe, and we will not stop fighting until these waters, lands, and sacred sites are protected for good,” said Delabreau.
“This wetlands permit was initially approved despite repeated concerns flagged by Michigan environmental staff that Aquila Resources refused to provide all of the information that the state needed to determine the full environmental impacts that the mine will have on the Menominee River and the surrounding area,” said Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer, who represents the Tribe. “We are pleased that the Judge has denied the permit, and we’ll continue using every available legal tool to protect the Menominee River on behalf of the Menominee Tribe.”