Aqulia Resources is in the process of creating an open-pit sulfide mine along the banks of the Menominee River near Marinette.
The mining company has spent the last 10 years exploring the site for a mine referred to as the Back Forty Project.
According to their website, Aquila Resources has spent over $70 million thus far in the exploration process. If approved, the mine will extract gold, zinc, copper, silver and lead.
The name given to the Back Forty is somewhat of a misnomer. The pit itself is proposed to be 2000 feet wide and 2500 feet long with a total area around 15 million feet, which is about 360 acres.
The leak detection system of the tailings and waste rock management systems, which will have an underlying high-density polyethylene geomembrane with a nominal thickness of 40 mils, or the thickness of about seven plastic bags.
Aquila Resources claims the mine will create jobs and economic prosperity in the region. Those in opposition claims the economic benefits will not be significant enough to outweigh the environmental and cultural degradation which may ensue from having a mine so close to the river.
Mine tailings contain harmful substances. If not handled properly, these substances can leach into nearby waterways. The expected distance from the edge of the mine to the river is 150 feet at the closest point.
Community members are concerned because of the close proximity of the mining site to the Menominee River.
If sulfide wastes from the proposed mine pollute the Menominee River, the largest population of lake sturgeon in the Lake Michigan basin may lose their spawning grounds.
The Menominee Indian Tribe has a huge stake in the proposed project.
The area contains multiple tribal burial grounds, which would be destroyed if the Back Forty Mine is created.
In addition to the burial mounds, the Menominee Tribe’s culture is deeply interwoven into the river itself.
Guy Reiter, a community organizer and member of the Menominee Nation, said, “Our creation story starts at the mouth of the river.”
The Menominee Tribe has resided in Wisconsin and parts of Michigan and Illinois, for around 10,000 years.
Reiter explained that while he does not speak for the tribe, he does speak for the group called the Protectors of The Menominee River, which is a Menominee Grassroots Organization created to resist the Back Forty Mine project.
The resistance to the Back Forty Mine echoes the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016 where the Sioux Nation organized in opposition to a pipeline running through sacred areas near their reservation.
In an effort to raise awareness, on Friday, April 21 there will be a speaking tour from 6-8p.m. at the College of Menominee Nation as an attempt to address the mine and its potential for cultural and environmental impacts.
Regina Chaltry, a mother and concerned neighbor said, “Together through community awareness and with the people standing up for our water; we can stop this, but it will take all of us.”
So far, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved three of the four required permits for the project. The fourth permit is in the process of approval.
On Earth Day, Save the Menominee River will gather at Stephenson Island in Marinette for an action against the last permit approval.