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Talking points to use when following up from the public hearing

TOP FIVE TALKING POINTS

  1. The Back Forty Mine site will be located within a landscape that features significant ancient Menominee Tribal cultural resources, including tribal burial grounds, historic agricultural sites and ceremonial sites. Mining operations will destroy these irreplaceable resources and irreversibly harm the Menominee River and nearby wetlands.  While responsibility for issuing federal surface and water discharge permits and wetlands permits has been delegated to the state of Michigan, the federal trust responsibility owed to the tribes has not.

Aquila has ignored Menominee treaty rights and is in violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that requires all extractive resource projects that affect indigenous peoples to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has affirmed that the sacred natural sites of indigenous peoples should be “No-Go-Areas” for destructive industrial activities like mining and for corporations to permanently withdraw from such areas.

  1. Aquila has chosen the upstream design to store its mine tailings. The upstream design is the lowest cost option but the most prone to failure, according to experts. About 76% of tailings dam failures worldwide are related to upstream construction methods.  The recent tailings dam failure that occurred in Brumadinho Brazil in January 2019 released almost 3 billion gallons of sludgy mine waste and killed about 270 people. Brazil has since banned upstream mining dams and ordered that Brazil’s 88 upstream dams be taken down or converted into other types of dams. The international mining industry has called for a fundamental change in the industry’s approach to safe tailings management. Insurance companies like American International Group (AIG) are withdrawing from the vast majority of its mining liability business in response to the Brazilian disaster. Why is the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy considering a Dam Safety Permit for a tailings dam that is designed to fail?

3. Upstream tailings dam embankments are not suited to areas of seismic activity. Liquefaction, or the sudden loss of strength when tailings sands are loaded and cannot drain, can be triggered by seismic events, such as an earthquake.  When liquefaction occurs, “a solid material seemingly resting safely in place can abruptly become a murky liquid, flowing downhill and destroying nearly everything in its path,” as happened in the January 25 tailings dam disaster in Brazil.  Chile, Peru, and other earthquake-prone countries ban the design because even small seismic activity has been shown to affect tailings dams.

According to Dr. David Chambers, an internationally-recognized expert on tailings dam failures, Aquila’s seismic risk analysis did not do either a probabilistic or determinist analysis to determine the largest ground motion that the tailings dam structure could experience. The International Commission on Large Dams recommends that tailings dams be designed to withstand the Maximum Credible Earthquake or the 1 in 10,000-year event  By using the 1 in 2,475-year seismic event instead of the 1 in 10,000-year event, Aquila significantly underestimates the size of the seismic event the tailings dam could experience. The use of the 1 in 2,475-year seismic event for the design basis event, and the lack of probabilistic seismic analysis, are viewed as unacceptable for tailings impoundment design in most regulatory jurisdictions.

4. Aquila fails to disclose what the life of the liners in the tailings and waste rock management facility is expected to be and what will happen in the likely result of the failure of the liners. Tailings impoundments have been using plastic liners for only 35 years, and the leakage or seepage of lined tailings impoundment facilities is already a known problem.  Leaking tailings liners are “commonly underestimated” according to the EPA, resulting in Leachate seepage and the transport of contaminants into groundwater.

The liners to be used in the Back Forty tailings management facility (TMF) have “no lifetime guarantee” according to an industrial liner manufacturer.  Plastic liners will also be adversely affected by acidic chemistry of the TMF. Liners have a finite life, and will fail following the closure of the TMF, when the resources available to remediate the failure will be limited.

  1. Mining companies routinely produce dam breach analyses as part of their environmental impact assessments for new projects or tailings management facility (TMF) expansions. Yet the word “breach” in relation to the TMF facility is never mentioned in the Mine Permit Application Amendment (MPAA).

Failure of the TMF would obviously have major, permanent impacts on the land surrounding the mine site, and on the Menominee River. Toxic tailings sludge would be discharged downriver, poisoning the water and destroying the aquatic habitat from the mine site all the way into Lake Michigan. The downstream communities of Menominee, Michigan and Marinette, Wisconsin would be severely impacted.  Yet Aquila has failed to complete an analysis of what the environmental, social and economic impacts of a partial breach or total collapse of the TMF would be.  Why has such an analysis not been required as a condition of the dam safety permit?

Use the power of the pen!

Action Needed on Back Forty Mine!

CITIZENS AGAINST THE BACK FORTY MINE·THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 2019

(From our friends at River Alliance of Wisconsin)

More than 300 people attended and 60 people spoke at the consolidated Back Forty Mine/Aquila Resources permit hearing on Tuesday evening.
Thank you to everyone who attended and spoke for our waters. It was great to see the huge crowd wearing blue!

You can watch a video recording of the June 25 hearing thanks to Indian Country TV.

If you couldn’t attend but would like to take action to protect the Menominee River, please submit written comments using the information below.

Submit written comments to protect the Menominee River:

Anyone interested in protecting our water resources from mining pollution may submit comments. Please submit your written comments to The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) using the information below.
The hearing covered three permits, you may submit public comments for EACH permit:

  • Dam Safety
  • Air Quality
  • Oil, Gas, and Minerals

DAM SAFETY

Deadline for written comments: Friday, July 5. The address is below.
EGLE
Water Resource Division, Marquette District Office,
1504 West Washington Street
Marquette, MI, 49855

AIR QUALITY

Deadline for written comments: Tuesday, July 23.
Submit comments to deq-aqd-ptipubliccomments@michigan.gov and use the subject line: Aquila Resources Inc. – Permit to Install Application No. 205-15A.

OIL, GAS, AND MINERALS

Deadline for written comments: Tuesday, July 23.
Submit comments to EGLE-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov.

MORE INFORMATION ON PERMITS

If you would like more information about the permits, EGLE held two webinars to provide information and take questions about the permits.
Watch the webinars at these links:
6/17 EGLE WEBINAR
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCCg7_SA5KU&feature=youtu.be
6/18 EGLE WEBINAR
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdiPDAfhDtg&feature=youtu.be

A decision on all three permits is expected this fall.

Federal lawsuit regarding the wetlands permit

PRESS RELEASE

On November 13, 2018, the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking review of the federal government’s handling of the wetlands permit for the proposed Back Forty Mine.

As has been well publicized, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have thus far delegated final permitting authority to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality despite the fact that the proposed Back Forty Mine would be located within 50 yards of the Menominee River in Michigan, and an environmental assessment completed as part of the application process determined that there are a number of potential impacts to the Menominee River as well as to Wisconsin residents.  The EPA did lodge numerous objections to the permit but withdrew those objections at the last minute, based on Michigan’s decision to address deficiencies in the permit by imposing material conditions in the permit.

The Coalition’s lawsuit is intended to address two issues:  (1)  Did the EPA properly determine that the proposed wetland permit fell within the authority delegated to Michigan; and (2)  Was the EPA’s decision to withdraw its objections to the permit arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with applicable law.

“With so many potential issues affecting Wisconsin, decisions regarding the proposed Mine shouldn’t be left to a Michigan state agency.  When you have a boundary water and impacts to more than one state, the federal government should be in charge of making permitting decisions and should make those decisions in accordance with the requirements of federal law,” said Dale Burie, President of the Coalition.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. is a Wisconsin non-profit corporation dedicated to educating and supporting citizens regarding environmental issues affecting the Menominee River, including potential impacts of the proposed Back Forty Mine.

THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Menominee River Rally & Guitar Show on August 19, 2018, a huge success!

We especially thank our attorney, Ted A. Warpinski, for participating and offering a legal update.

 

We’ve taken action in a big way!

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. has filed a Petition For Contested Case Hearing in the state of Michigan, challenging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s (MDEQ) decision to grant the wetland permit to Aquila Resources. The Coalition is represented by environmental attorneys Ted A. Warpinski of Davis & Kuelthau, Green Bay, WI, and Bruce Wallace of Hooper Hathaway, Ann Arbor, MI.

We need your financial help.

The Coalition is a 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation and consists solely of volunteers. Your tax-deductible donation may be sent to:

Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc.
P. O. Box 475
Marinette, WI 54143

Also accepting PayPal or GoFund Me donations through our Facebook page.

Why is the DEQ Director at odds with the findings of their own water resources division?

Back Forty Project wetland permit is approved by the DEQ Director despite contrary findings by Michigan’s DEQ Water Resources Division (WRD)

DEQ Director, C. Heidi Grether, in a June 4, 2018, letter of approval to Aquila Resources stated the following:

“We have determined that the project as proposed could not be permitted without additional supporting documentation because the hydrologic modeling provided does not define the anticipated impacts to aquatic resources described in the application.”

THEN WHY DID YOU APPROVE IT?

To view entire letter, go to “Approval Letter from DEQ to Aquila

 

The Water Resources Division of Michigan’s DEQ, in its FINDING of FACT and CONCLUSIONS of LAW, clearly demonstrates why the permit should have been denied:

“WRD finds that the project does not demonstrate that an unacceptable disruption to the aquatic resources of the State will not occur and that the activities associated with the project are not consistent with the permitting criteria for an acceptable impact to the resources regulated under Parts 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, and Part 303, Wetlands Protection.”

SO WHY DID THE DIRECTOR REVERSE THE FINDINGS OF THE WRD?

To view entire Finding of Fact and Conclusions of Law, go to “Finding of Fact

 

While the wetland permit has been approved, it comes with 30 pages of conditions that MUST be satisfied in order to proceed. Along with that, the three previously-approved permits also include numerous pages of conditions.

To view these 30 pages of wetland conditions, go to  “Conditions of Wetland Permit

DEMAND ANSWERS FROM DIRECTOR GRETHER AS TO WHY SHE APPROVED THIS PERMIT!
Call 517-284-6700
Email: 
gretherh@michigan.gov

Many thanks to all who support us in this environmental fight to protect the Menominee River.

News Release August 2, 2018

NEWS RELEASE

August 2, 2018

The filing of a Petition For Contested Case Hearing in the State of Michigan has been announced by Dale Burie, President of the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc., challenging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to grant Aquila Resources a wetlands permit that allows metallic sulfide mining adjacent to the Menominee River.

There has never been a metallic sulfide mine that successfully avoided polluting area water supplies. Since the Menominee River is the Boundary Water between Michigan and Wisconsin, metallic sulfide mining near the river has the grave potential to impact surface and groundwater resources on both sides of the river and damage water quality of the municipal water supplies for the cities of Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin, which in turn threatens human health. The fact that these risks remain unevaluated is evident when looking at 30 pages of conditions that are to be completed before startup.

In addition to water quality, degrading the Menominee River affects fish and other aquatic life, wildlife, tourism, property values of taxpayers on both sides of the river, and disturbs the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s ancient burial grounds.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that consists solely of volunteers; there are no salaries. The Coalition represents the interests of individuals and groups concerned about the effects of the proposed Back Forty mine. The Coalition echoes the opposition voiced by groups such as River Alliance of Wisconsin, the Sierra Club, Patagonia, Freshwater Future, the Front 40 Group, numerous additional environmental organizations and municipalities, as well as thousands of concerned citizens living in Michigan and Wisconsin, in opposition to the proposed Back Forty project.

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. is represented by environmental attorneys Ted A. Warpinski of Davis & Kuelthau in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Bruce Wallace of Hooper Hathaway in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dale Burie, President
Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc.
P.O. Box 475
Marinette, WI  54143
(615) 512-3506  Cell phone
(715) 732-4211  Home
jointherivercoalition@gmail.com
jointherivercoalition.org

Midwest Waters Angling Co. Bronzeback Cup

The first annual Bronzeback Cup Invitational Fly Tournament will be  POSTPONED until further notice.

The event will be based out of the Chicago suburbs (more info to come).

The entry fee per team is $375. This includes Tournament shirts, SWAG bags, a donation to the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, dinner, and cash prizes. This is a non-profit tournament, and ALL of the proceeds will go towards prizes and donations.

For more information, visit https://www.midwestwaters.com/bronzeback-cup/

Facebook event

Fly Fishing Film Tour: March 8

Fly Fishing’s most-attended annual event! The original and largest tour of its kind. Each show is a high-energy celebration!

March 8, 2018

Fly Fishing Film Tour
Meyer Theatre
117 South Washington Street
Green Bay, Wisconsin

920-433-3333

General admission: $18

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc. will have a presence at this event. We will have a merchandise table and a brief speaking opportunity, furthering our cause to protect the water, environment, and health of people in this area and for future generations.

For more information, visit https://meyertheatre.org/the-fly-fishing-film-tour-2018/