The Back 40 Mine is a potential metallic sulfide mining site proposed by the private Canadian company, Aquila Resources. Located on the border of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it must be approved by both states regulations to start operations.
Currently, it has attained three out of the four permits necessary.
While claiming to stimulate the economy, sulfide mining has proven to be environmentally damaging.
“I don’t support it at all, sulfide mining is one of the most hazardous environmentally degrading mining operations,” said Robert Abrahamian, senior water resources and political science majors.
“In 2016 there was the big acid mine drainage issue with the Animas River in Durango, Col. when the river was completely turned orange. That was from a sulfide mine. That’s the potential that this has,” Abrahamian said.
Wisconsin enacted a sulfide mining moratorium in 1997 called the “Prove it First” law. Under this law, the mining industry must provide an example of a metallic sulfide mine that has been operated and then closed for 10 years without negative environmental consequences. The Gold Creek Mine that Abrahamian refers to has been abandoned for 90 plus years.
The University Wisconsin-Stevens Point Student Government Association has taken a stance formally on Senate Bill 395, which would repeal the moratorium on sulfide mining that was created in 1997.
Abrahamian does not feel the Back 40 will bring economic benefits to Wisconsin. Since it is a Canadian mining company, he believes that employment will come from Canada.
In addition, repealing the moratorium would allow subsequent mining proposals that could impact Stevens Point residents directly.
“There are proposed mines in Marathon County that are very close to the Eau Claire River, very close to the Wisconsin River…so if there are issues with mine drainage there… we would feel the effects of that,” Abrahamian said.
Deaken Boggs, natural resources planning major and SGA caucus chair of natural resources, agreed with Abrahamian citing the Reef Deposit mine located in Marathon County as a prime example.
“[It] has a very direct connection to the Eau Claire River (is within a quarter of a mile) and if not properly regulated could affect the Eau Claire River and subsequently the Wisconsin River. This could have a direct impact on both fisheries of the Eau Claire and Wisconsin River and could possibly result in mass die off of fish species and greatly reduce the usability of both rivers,” Boggs said.