The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has released two public notices regarding permit applications filed by Aquila Resources Inc. for the Back Forty Mine project.

The Oil, Gas and Minerals Division (OGMD) announced Friday that it will extend the public comment period on a mining permit application amendment and the Water Resources Division announced Jan. 29 that Aquila had filed for a permit under the Dam Safety authority to construct a tailings management facility and a contact water basin in association with the Back Forty Mine project.

The OGMD extended the written public comment for amendments to the mining permit that were submitted by Aquila Resources in late 2018. While a public meeting was held Jan. 9 in Stephenson, many of the people commenting expressed problems in trying to open the lengthy document on the MDEQ website as well as concerns that the Christmas and New Year holidays curtailed people’s ability to read and explore the changes. The MDEQ was repeatedly asked to extend the public comment period beyond Feb. 6 (today).

On Friday, the MDEQ-OGMD released this statement: “Due to the holidays and computer operating system problems which caused difficulties in accessing the Back Forty Mining Permit Amendment Materials, the MDEQ is extending the written comment period to 5 p.m. EST, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.”

People still wishing to review the document can find it at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/DEQ_FTP_372266_7.pdf; Once in the FTP site, select the “Mining” directory, then select the “Back Forty project.” The MDEQ recommends people use Internet Explorer as the web browser in order to properly access these files. The amendment documents are: R-MP Amendment Volume II EIA_Nov. 2018.pdf R-MP Amendment Volume I_Nov. 2018.pdf. A paper and digital copy of the permit amendment materials may be viewed at the Menominee County Public Library, S319 Railroad St., Stephenson.

People may submit comments in writing to: Back Forty Mining Permit Amendment, MDEQ-OGMD, 1504 West Washington St. , Marquette, MI 49855. Comments may be emailed to the designated MDEQ mailbox at DEQ-Mining-Comments@michigan.gov, including “Back Forty Mining Permit Amendment” as the subject.

The MDEQ will only consider comments that pertain to the Mining Permit Amendment Application prior to making a final decision. For additional information, people may contact Melanie Humphrey, MDEQ, Oil, Gas and Minerals Division, 906-250-7564, or e-mail humphreym@michigan.gov.

In a separate, but related, matter concerning the Back Forty Mine project, the MDEQ’s Water Quality Division issued a public notice Jan. 29 that a permit requested by Aquila Resources “may also be regulated by one or more additional parts of the NREPA (Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act) that are administered by the Department of Environmental Quality, Water Resources Division (WRD). The requirements of all applicable parts are considered in determining if a permit can be issued.

“When a permit application is received requesting authorization to work in or over the inland waters of the State of Michigan, pursuant to Part 315 of the NREPA, the NREPA provides that the DEQ submit copies for review to the department of public health; the city, village, or township and county where the project is to be located; the local soil conservation district; and any local watershed council organized under Part 311, Local River Management, of the NREPA. Additional notification is provided to certain persons as required by statute or determined by the DEQ,” the notice reads.

Those wishing to comment have 20 days from the date of the notice. “Written comments will be made part of the record and should reference the above application number. Objections must be factual, specific, and fully describe the reasons upon which any objection is founded. Unless a written request is filed with the DEQ within the 20-day public comment period, the DEQ may make a decision on the application without a public hearing. The determination as to whether a permit will be issued or a public hearing held will be based on an evaluation of all relevant factors, including the public comments received and the effect of the proposed work on the public trust or interest, including navigation, fish, wildlife, and pollution. The specific permit decision criteria can be found in the parts of the NREPA applicable to this application and listed above. Copies of these parts of the NREPA are available on the public notice Web site. Public comments received will also be considered,” the notice further states.

According to the MDEQ, the entire copy of the public notice package may be viewed at the WRD’s field office listed on the top of this public notice or online at https://miwaters.deq.state.mi.us/miwaters/#/external/publicnotice/search. To access the public notice page online, search for the public notice by location or applicant name, and view by clicking on the “Documents” tab. Comments may be sent electronically by clicking on the “Add Comment” tab. A hard copy of the public notice may be requested by calling 989-731-4920.