There was a wide range of emotions as people from Wisconsin and Michigan gathered together in opposition of a controversial mine that would be 150 feet from the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Aquila Resources has secured three of the four permits necessary to begin mining on an 83-acre open pit sulphide mine near the town of Stephenson.
The Canadian based company wants to dig for gold, zinc, copper and silver. Aquila has been working on the back forty project for the past ten years, they’ve already spent $70 million on the project and say they are committed to the environment and protecting sacred burial grounds.
People for the mine say it would bring a boost to the economy with jobs, people against the mine worry about the future of water if the Menominee River ends up polluted.
So far different groups have worked to bring awareness to the issue: Locals from Michigan, people from Wisconsin and the Menominee Tribe who calls the land near the proposed site sacred and the birth place of their people.
“Now that everybody is mad, now that everybody is aware of the mine what are we actually going to do about it?” asked Burton Warrington of the Menominee Tribe. “We are all here for different reasons, but our end goal is the same, to protect that river.”
The demonstrators are trying to move past raising awareness and now focus on uniting, organizing and getting more attention focused nationally.
“We can not let this happen to our people and our area,” said Jeffrey Budish of Peshtigo. “Please give us a hand and help us stop this mine, we need everybody’s help from all over the country.”
The group has given up hope that the government will step in and help, but they still have hope that they can fight against the third permit issued to Aquila.
“Now we find out that Aquila can check their own water, that is ridiculous, that is a conflict of interest,” said Ed Smith who has lived in Menominee for 72 years. “We have to get a hold of our reps and tell them what is wrong with you people.”
Aquila received the third permit on April 5, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit, the NPDES regulates the water discharged into the Menominee river during mining operations.
Local 5 talked with Steve Casey of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who confirmed that Aquila will self regulate and self monitor while the MDEQ performs audits and surprise inspections.
The final permit that Aquila needs pertains to surrounding wetlands, inland lakes and streams, the initial permit got rejected because it was incomplete, however that process will continue this summer.
During today’s protest one woman challenged the group, she said mining feeds families and the water is already polluted because of industrial plants.
In addition, the police responded after somebody inside the Ogden Club called filing a complaint for trespassing when a protester walked on their property and held a sign against the window, the police gave the protester a warning.
Other than that the demonstration was peaceful.