Packed, orderly crowd for Back Forty Mine public hearing

Back Forty Mine permit hearing at Stephenson High School, Jan. 23, 2018. (WLUC)
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STEPHENSON, Mich. (WLUC) - *************UPDATE*****************
The Stephenson high school gym was packed with four to five hundred members of the public for the last hearing on the permitting process for the Aquila Back 40 Mine.

This hearing was to allow members of the Department of Environmental Quality to hear from the people on whether or not to grant the final permit needed for the mine to go forward.

The vast majority of the over one hundred individuals who registered to speak represented the Native American community of Upper Michigan and Wisconsin. The overwhelming majority of those who spoke opposed the mine.

The statements from the public were fairly evenly spread out over two subjects. There were those who addressed historical and cultural issue and those who spoke about environmental issues. There were two statements made that encapsulated the arguments against the mine.

The first was made by one of the Native American speakers and it addresses a cultural issue.

"Would you put this proposed mine next to grandfather's or grandmother's grave? Then why are you going to put it next to the graves of the Menominee people?" one speaker asked.

Another made a simple statement that expressed just how important the wetlands are.

"Michigan's wetlands are the kidneys of the great lake!" one woman stated and was greeted with a round of applause.

An Aquila representative who was on hand felt the company had addressed those concerns.

Chantae Lessard is the Aquila Director of Communications.

"We have done several comprehensive archaeological studies at the project and we have identified some significant cultural resources that are identified with the Menominee. Those will be protected during operation and in fact we have a plan in place that we can stop works if we come across anything that looks like it may be culturally significant."

She also addressed the wetlands concern.

"Any water that has to then be released from the site or reused in the process will go through a water treatment plant where the water is cleaned to better than drinking water quality."

Kimberly Fish works with the water resources division of the DEQ and spoke to when a decision could be expected.

"Our expected time frame would have us making a decision in April of this year however that can be expanded and we expect it to be expanded. We anticipate that we will be going back to the applicant with a list of additional questions."

So for now the waiting game begins for all concerned parties.


A public hearing on the final state permit needed for a proposed mine drew a large - but orderly - crowd at Stephenson High School Tuesday night.

About 400-500 people attended the hearing on the state wetlands permit needed for the proposed Back Forty Mine. About 100 people signed up to speak. There was an increased police presence at the meeting - between 30-40 members of law enforcement were there - but the meeting was well-managed with no major issues. The hearing lasted four hours.

Aquila Resources plans to operate a gold, zinc and copper mine in Menominee County's Lake Township. The proposed site borders the Menominee River. Environmental groups and Indian tribes have concerns about damage to the Menominee.

Aquila has already received most of the permits it needs, with just the wetlands permit remaining to be issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

TV6's Escanaba Bureau reporter Mark Cowman was at the meeting. Watch Wednesday night's TV6 News for a full report on the hearing. This story will be updated with more information.

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