County Board In Michigan’s UP Takes Symbolic Stance Against Mining Near Menominee River

Wisconsin Menominee Indian Tribe Applauds Officials' Vote

Menominee River
Menominee River david.dames (CC-BY-ND)

The Menominee County Board in Michigan has approved a largely symbolic resolution against a proposed mine near the border with northern Wisconsin.

The county in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula could be home to a proposed open pit sulfide mine run by Aquila Resources. It would be near the shores of the river that forms the border between the two states and ultimately empties into Lake Michigan.

The board signed off on the resolution on a 5-4 vote Tuesday night.

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County Board Chair Charlie Meintz voted against the resolution. He said it could give people the impression that the board has the power to stop the mine, which it doesn’t.

“I did not want the public to have that misinformation that just because we put a resolution forward — that the board is not necessarily in favor of any mining on the Menominee River — that that project would still not go forward and happen,” he said.

Meintz added the resolution doesn’t just involve the Aquila project. “It’s that there shouldn’t be any mining along the Menominee River for fear of pollution,” he said.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has ultimate authority on mining. Aquila Resources has secured three of four permits needed to proceed, including those for mining, air quality and pollution discharges. The remaining permit involves wetlands.

Wisconsin’s Menominee Indian Tribe opposes the mine because they say it would disrupt important cultural sites including possible burial grounds. The region is part of the tribe’s ancestral lands.

Tribal Chair Gary Besaw said other tribes and some environmental groups stand with the Menominee in opposition to the mine. But he added it means a lot when local governments weigh in.

“This was important that it be the Michigan local government and that it be Menominee County specifically because that’s exactly where the proposed mine is located,” Besaw said. “While this may or may not have impact legally, we know politically and otherwise this is important because … the people’s voice should be heard.”

If the final permit is approved, Besaw said the tribe will look into possible legal action to block the mine.