The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 17, 2019

'Back Forty' Gold Mine in the U.P. takes a step forward

By The Building Tradesman

The Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules on May 6 issued a "Final Decision and Order" to Aquila Resources, upholding the issuance of a Michigan Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining Permit for the Back Forty Project in Michigan.

The proposed Back Forty Project is an open-pit deposit along the mineral-rich Penokean Volcanic Belt in Menominee County's Lake Twp. along the Michigan-Wisconsin border. Aquila is seeking to mine about 468,000 ounces of gold, 512 million lbs. of zinc, 51 million pounds of copper, 4.5 million ounces of silver, and 24 million pounds of lead during operations.

"Aquila will continue its efforts with the State of Michigan and local communities to demonstrate our commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainable resource development that benefits all stakeholders," said Aquila President & CEO Barry Hildred. "The Back Forty Mine will be a safe, disciplined operation that promotes and supports local community socio-economic development and is protective of the environment."

In February 2017, both the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and an individual owning property near the project site filed an administrative contested case challenge to the mining permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, now the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. An administrative law judge opened an evidentiary hearing in April 2018, which ended in October 2018.

On May 3, following 30 days of cumulative testimony, the judge issued a final decision finding "that the proposed mining operation will not pollute, impair, or destroy the air, water and other natural resources, or the public trust in those resources," in compliance with Michigan's Non Ferrous Metallic Mining Statute.

The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition said Aquila Resources "has not received all the permits to start mining," in fact, now only has one of five needed state permits.

Aquila said the company is focused on advancing pre-construction activities, but did not provide a timeline for the project, estimated to cost about $90 million.