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Back Forty Mine opponents fear environmental impacts of mine during public comment

STEPHENSON, MICHIGAN - Hundreds of people against the Back Forty Mine proposal filled a high school gym in Stephenson, Michigan on Tuesday during a public comment session on the mine company's wetlands permit application.

Aquila Resources, the Toronto-based company that wants to dig a mine 150 feet away from the Menominee River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that will be 750 feet deep and 84 acres wide.

Aquila says they would mine for primarily ore and gold, as well as silver, zinc, and copper.

The company just submitted their wetlands permit application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and on Tuesday, the public could comment on the documents.

Meanwhile, Menominee Nation filed a lawsuit against the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the explanation that since the Menominee River is a federally-owned body of water, as well as the wetlands around it, Michigan should not be deciding whether the mine should be built or not because of the Clean Water Act.

"The lawsuit asks the court to require the federal agencies to exercise primary authority over the wetland permit application required under the Clean Water Act," Gary Besaw, chairman of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, said.

Hundreds of opponents to the Back Forty Mine filled up bleachers in a high school gym, many going on record for the public comment on why they do not believe the Back Forty Mine is a good idea.

The reasons people are against the Back Forty Mine include the detrimental environmental impact, water quality impact, wildlife impact, and also the fact that much of the mining will occur on Indian ancestral burial grounds.

"Looking at it realistically, we're going to lose a lot, and if this sulfide mine ends up leaking, which it will because it's proven that it's never worked before, we're going to lose out on, what they say, twenty percent of the world's water and then that's going to be poisoned for a lot of Wisconsin and Michigan and wherever else this water connects to," Daelian Madosh, of Menominee Nation, explained. 

Aquila says they will have to fill in the mine and plant trees after the eight-year project is complete. For the ancestral burial grounds, they say there will be an expert to handle remains and artifacts and they will be handled respectfully.

For concerns about sediments and chemicals leaking into the Menominee River, which leads into Lake Michigan, one of the largest bodies of freshwater used as drinking water in the Untied States, Aquila Resources says there is a solution for it. 

"We have safeguards in place to make sure that we manage water, all water that comes into contact with the minesite is put through a water treatment plant, it is cleaned to better than drinking water quality standards before it's ever discharged back into the environment," Chantae Lessard, director of community and social performance with Aquila Resources, explained. 

The public can submit written comments on the wetlands permit application from Aquila Resources for ten days. 

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