Lawsuit Seeks To Block Back Forty Mine In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Federal Lawsuit Filed Tuesday By Coalition To SAVE The Menominee River

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

A group is suing two federal agencies as part of an effort to block a proposed mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin line.

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River names the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River claims the two federal agencies wrongly approved a water quality permit for the proposed mine.

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced in June that it granted a final permit to Toronto-based Aquila Resources, which is targeting primarily gold and zinc in an underground sulfide deposit discovered in 2001. The company also expects its Back Forty mine to produce smaller volumes of copper, silver and lead.

The coalition alleges the EPA and the Corps of Engineers were “arbitrary and capricious” in withdrawing objections to a water quality permit for mining company Aquila Resources.

Dale Burie, Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River president, said the two agencies initially rescinded approval of the permit then gave Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality permission to grant it.

“Then all of a sudden they came up with more reasons why they should accept it from the mining company and then they said, ‘OK, alright, well, if you’re going to put all these conditions into the permits, we’ll go ahead and approve it,’” Burie said. “So that’s when the DEQ approved it.”

Burie, who lives in Marinette, also said the agencies approved the permit without enforcing pages of conditions for the company.

The federal government hasn’t formally responded to the lawsuit. The Justice Department says it’s reviewing the complaint, which was filed in Green Bay’s Eastern District Court. No hearing date has been set.

The Menominee Indian Tribe sued in January seeking to block the project.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had no comment on the litigation.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, with comments from Dale Burie.