Friday, June 21, 2019

UPDATED: EGLE to hold Consolidated Public Hearing on three permits for Back 40 Mine June 25; public comment deadlines announced

By Michele Bourdieu, with information from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)

This map shows location of the proposed Back 40 Mine, near the Menominee River. The additional land in light green and the access corridor from the east are among the changes in the proposed Amendment to the Part 632 Mining Permit. A Consolidated Public Hearing will be held on Tuesday, June 25, to take comments on three permit applications for this mining project. Click on map for larger version. (Images courtesy Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE)

[UPDATE: The June 25 Public Hearing will be livestreamed by Indian Country Today at 5:30 p.m. CDT (6:30 p.m. EDT). Click here to watch it.]

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) (formerly Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) will hold a Consolidated Public Hearing on the Aquila Back Forty Mine Project from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at Stephenson High School Gymnasium, W526 Division Street, Stephenson, Michigan 49887. Aquila  Resources, Inc., is proposing to develop an open pit polymetallic gold, zinc, and copper mine and associated beneficiation and storage facilities.

On June 17 and June 18 EGLE held a Webinar with information on the three permit applications to be considered at the June 25 Hearing. A video recording of the Webinar presentations is now available on YouTube here.

The purpose of the hearing is to take official public comments on three different Aquila applications:

1) Application for permit HNK-5X9D-9HC0S under Part 315, Dam Safety of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA), by Mr. David Anderson, Aquila Resources, Inc. The applicant proposes to construct two regulated dams -- a Tailings Management Facility (TMF) and a Contact Water Basin (CWB) -- in association with the Back Forty Project mine.

Here the Tailings Management Facility (TMF) is outlined in the center of the map. The Contact Water Basin (CWB) is the section below the lower left corner of the TMF. Click on image for a larger version. The pit, to the left of the TMF, is only about 150 feet from the Menominee River.

The proposed TMF would have a height of 118 feet and an impoundment area of 124 acres. The size of the TMF has been compared to 100 football fields.*

This diagram of the proposed TMF shows how it would be constructed in stages. Click on image for larger version.

The Contact Water Basin would have a height of 27 feet and an impoundment area of 40 acres.

The Dam Safety hearing will be held pursuant to Section 324.31511.3 of Part 315 of the NREPA. The Part 315 application is available for review on EGLE’s Web site at:  https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/, or at the EGLE, Water Resource Division, Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI, 49855, or by calling 517- 284-5567. The Dam Safety Part 315 public hearing record will remain open for ten days after the public hearing date, closing on Friday, July 5. Written comments on this Dam Safety permit must be received at the above address or at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/ by July 5, 2019.

2)  The proposed conditional approval of Permit to Install (PTI) Application Number 205-15A under Part 55 of NREPA. It has been preliminarily determined that the installation and operation of the mining and ore processing facility will not violate any of EGLE's rules nor the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. EGLE's Air Quality Division (AQD) will accept comments on this proposed action until July 23, 2019. Send AQD PTI written comments to Ms. Annette Switzer, Permit Section Manager, EGLE, AQD, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan, 48909-7760. Comments may also be submitted from this webpage: http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/cwerp.shtml (After consulting the documents listed, click on "Submit Comment" under the Aquila Resources Inc., PTI Application No. 205-15A listing). All statements received by July 23, 2019, will be considered by the decision maker prior to final permit action.

Copies of PTI related documents are also available on the AQD webpage; at the Marquette District Office, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855; at the AQD Central Office, 525 West Allegan Street, Lansing, MI 48933; at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887; or you may request a copy be mailed to you by calling 517-284-6793. The PTI application and related correspondence are on the website at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/aps/AppsOfInterest.shtml.

3) The proposed decision to grant, with conditions, a request submitted by Aquila Resources Inc. to amend Mining Permit MP 01 2016, issued under Part 632, Nonferrous Metallic Mineral Mining (Part 632), of the NREPA. The Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division (OGMD) will accept comments on this proposed decision until July 23, 2019. Send Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision written comments to Back Forty Project, EGLE/OGMD, 1504 West Washington Street, Marquette, MI 49855, or E-mail to EGLE-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov with "Back Forty Mining Permit" as the subject. Comments applicable to the proposed  decision received by 5 p.m. July 23, 2019, will be considered prior to making a final decision.**

During the informational Webinar, Melanie Humphrey, geologist, Oil, Gas and Minerals Division Upper Peninsula district, noted the proposed amendment would increase the mine footprint from 865 acres to 1,087 acres, due to changes in storage. Another change is the additional option for access via an Eastern Corridor (see map above). The amended permit would also include minor modifications to processing circuits and updates to the Mining Plan, Treatment and Containment Plan, Environmental Monitoring Plan, Contingency Plan, Reclamation Plan, Financial Assurance estimates, and Environmental Impact Assessment.

View the May 20, 2019, Proposed Decision on Aquila's Mining Permit Amendment Application here.

Application materials may be reviewed at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St, Stephenson, MI 49887, the EGLE Marquette District Office, or on the EGLE Mining website here

For  more  information on this Part 632 Mining Permit Amendment Application contact the EGLE, OGMD, Melanie  Humphrey, Gwinn  Field  Office, 906-250-7564, humphreym@michigan.gov; or Mark Snow, Permitting and Technical Services Section Manager, 517-230-8233, snowm@michigan.gov.

According to James Ostrowski, Supervisor, EGLE Training and Outreach Unit, the June 25 Consolidated Public Hearing will not be preceded by a question-answer session as some hearings have been in the past.

"There will not be a public information session with Q and A on June 25," Ostrowski told Keweenaw Now. "The hearing in Stephenson on June 25 will just be a hearing, meaning staff will be there to take official comment but will not respond to comments. There will be staff available to answer questions one-on-one throughout the evening."

He noted also that staff who presented at the Webinar can be contacted with questions related to the permits they discussed. They are the following:

Melanie Humphrey, Geologist, Oil, Gas, and Minerals Division, who spoke on the Mining Permit Amendment proposed decision, at 906-250-7564 or HumphreyM@Michigan.gov

Andrew Drury, Air Quality Division, who spoke on the Permit to Install application, at 517-284-6792 or DruryA@Michigan.gov

Lucas Trumble, P.E., Dam Safety Program, who spoke on the Part 315 Dam Safety permit, at 517-420-8923 or TrumbleL@michigan.gov.

Hearing participants will be asked to fill out an attendance card and indicate intent to speak before entering the hearing area. Following opening remarks at the start of the hearing, participants will be called to speak in the order of cards received. Speaker presentations will be limited to three minutes. Written comments will also be accepted at the hearing.

The hearing will not be a legal proceeding, witnesses will not  be sworn, and there will be no cross examination. During the hearing, EGLE technical staff will be available outside  the hearing room to answer questions regarding EGLE’s reviews and proposed actions. Individuals needing accommodations for effective participation at the hearing should contact Tina Coluccio, 906-228-4524 in advance of the hearing date to request mobility, visual, hearing, or other assistance.

June 25 Water Ceremony, Outside Action to precede hearing

On June 25, in advance of the Consolidated Public Hearing, concerned community members are invited to attend a Water Ceremony and Outside Action at 3 p.m., followed by a Press Conference at 4 p.m. at Stephenson High School.

Poster from Save the Menominee River - Stop the Back 40 Mine Facebook page.

Editor's Notes:

* See a recent Opinion article published in the Detroit News: "New mine could harm Menominee watershed," by Al Gedicks, emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse and executive secretary of the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, and Eric Hansen, an outdoor writer and commentator and author of Hiking Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

** A Public Hearing on Aquila's request for the Mining Permit Amendment was held on Jan. 9, 2019, followed by a public comment period and by the May 20 Proposed Decision. See our Jan. 23, 2019, article, with videos, on the Jan. 9 hearing, "Environmental groups, Menominee Nation, community residents oppose Back 40 mining permit amendment, seek technical expertise."