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The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s Livestream Series Presents

Contact: Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC)

upec@upenvironment.org   •   ph 906-201-1949

Mobilizing the Grassroots to Protect the Menominee River

Our guests:

Dr. Al Gedicks, environmental sociologist and Indigenous rights activist

Anahkwet (Guy Reiter), executive Director of Menīkānaehkem, Inc.

Dale Burie, Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River

Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 8:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm CT via livestream on Facebook and Zoom

*NOTE THAT THIS LIVESTREAM IS ON A WEDNESDAY, not our usual Thursday*

Facebook

https://facebook.com/upenvironment/live

Zoom

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86075269466?pwd=OFZCTk1ERHdJSEJOUlNWbW5UaTA3QT09

Meeting ID: 860 7526 9466

Passcode: 2022

The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin have joined forces to protect the Menominee River from the Back Forty Project,  a proposed metallic sulfide mine next to the river. So far, their combined public education efforts and legal challenges have forced the withdrawal of Aquila Resources, a Canadian exploration company, from the project. However, a new company, the Gold Resource Corporation (GORO) of Denver, Colorado, has acquired the assets of Aquila Resources and has asserted that they will have all the permits for the Back Forty Project in hand by the end of 2023 with construction to begin by early 2024. On the next Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Livestream, representatives of this environmental and tribal alliance will discuss how they have brought the Back Forty permitting process to a standstill and how they plan to continue their efforts to protect the Menominee River from any proposed metallic sulfide mine.

Our Guests

Dr. Al Gedicks is an environmental sociologist and Indigenous rights activist and scholar. He has written extensively about Indigenous and popular resistance to ecologically destructive mining and oil projects. In 1977 he founded the Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy. He assisted the Mole Lake Sokaogon Ojibwe Tribe in successfully resisting Exxon’s proposed metallic sulfide mine upstream from the tribe’s sacred wild rice beds. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, a statewide environmental organization to educate the public about metallic sulfide mining projects in the upper Midwest. He is presently working with the Menominee Nation and the Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River to oppose the Back Forty Project next to the Menominee River.


Anahkwet (Guy Reiter) is a traditional Menominee who resides on the Menominee Reservation and is the Executive Director of Menīkānaehkem, Inc., a Menominee Indian community organization. Anahkwet serves his community as an organizer, activist, author, amateur archaeologist, and lecturer. He also is a member of the Menominee Constitutional Taskforce.

Dale Burie is a retired Safety Coordinator from Tyson Foods, Nashville, Tennessee. Upon retiring and building their retirement home only 1/4 mile from the Menominee River 20 miles North of Marinette, Wisconsin, Dale and his wife Lea Jane became aware of the threat to the river from Aquila Resources sulfide mine exploration company from Toronto, Canada.  Dale and Lea Jane organized their first meeting of the “Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc.” The Coalition’s work continues challenging the next owner of the Back Forty project on the Menominee River. Their website is www.jointherivercoalition.org

The Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition’s Livestream Series keeps the public up-to-date with environmental issues facing the U.P.  The live streams are co-hosted by Board President Horst Schmidt and Vice President Evan Zimmermann. This live stream and all archived past events are available at https://facebook.com/upenvironment/live. For more about UPEC, visit https://upenvironment.org.

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PROTECT YOUR STATE LANDS NOW !!!

History Lesson:
The very same man who drilled multiple test holes along the Menominee
River in Lake Township in 2002 has now applied for a Mineral Lease on 1,640
acres in Holmes Township, Menominee County, Michigan, through his new
company Great Lakes Exploration, Inc. This man’s discovery of minerals in
Lake Township caused a start-up company from Toronto, Canada, named
Aquila Resources, to come into our area with big pipe dreams of high-paying
jobs and wealth for all.

For the past 19 years, Aquila has struggled to obtain the necessary permits
from the State of Michigan and spent $100,000,000, mostly paying themselves
six-digit salaries; and, still, they are struggling to obtain those required
permits. What is even worse, Aquila manipulated the public into believing
their fairytale and accepted millions of dollars for the paper stock from our
friends, families, neighbors, and local citizens. As of today, Aquila stock is
$.05 per share and they continue to seek investors. Aquila was halted by the
“Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada” (IIROC) when
they recently tried to issue a $10,000,000 Appeal from additional investors.

And now, the same man who initiated the Aquila project is attempting to
implement exploratory drilling in Holmes Township. We must STOP this
Mineral Lease grant to Great Lakes Exploration, Inc. Those 1,640 acres of
State land belongs to the people of Michigan for hunting, snowmobiling,
camping, hiking, and simply enjoying the peace and tranquility of the
outdoors.

I believe in “Of the People, By the People, and For the People.”
Please contact the Mineral Leasing Division of Michigan at 517-284-5850.

Or write to the DNR-Minerals Management Section
P.O. Box 30452
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Or email Ken Babcock at babcockk4@michigan.gov
Tell them you strictly oppose this lease application from
Great Lakes Exploration, Inc., and request a Public Hearing!

The deadline for public comments is APRIL 25, 2021.

PLEASE DO IT NOW !!

Dale Burie, President
Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River, Inc.

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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?

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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.

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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.