MARINETTE — The proposed Aquila Resources Back Forty Mine in Lake Township near the Menominee River in Menominee County would have a significant negative impact on Marinette County, three opponents of the project warned the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
After hearing testimony from Dale Burie, Robin Bender and Deb Skubal, who all live in Marinette County on the Menominee River near the mine site, the board voted 28-0 to adopt a strongly-worded resolution opposing the mine that will be sent to Wisconsin and Michigan agencies and officials.
Supervisor Mark Anderson, county board chairman, said that both sides in the mining controversy were invited to the meeting, but that Aquila sent no one to address the board.
“The Michigan Departmental of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) has accepted a permit application, but has not issued a permit yet,” said Burie, who resides in the McAllister area. “It’s time for us Wisconsin residents to unite in our efforts to oppose the Aquila mining project.
“Although the proposed mining project will be in Michigan, we in Wisconsin will be adversely affected by it. We have been hearing about this topic for 12 years.”
Burie listed seven issues that Wisconsin residents should be concerned about including:
¦ Noise and vibration. “Those located close to or right across the river from the mine would experience decibel levels above 90,” he said. “OSHA law states with anything 90 and above you must wear ear protection or permanent hearing damage will result.”
¦ Airborne chemically treated coarse and fine dust will affect the respiratory systems of everyone in the area, Burie said, saying that the No. 1 cause of emphysema is industrial dust.
¦ Constant blasting could open and close water aquifers, affecting water flow and permitting chemical contamination.
¦ Property values could possibly plummet 40 percent, which he said would reduce taxes paid to the county.
¦ Mineral rights. “Make sure you have the mineral rights on your property,” Burie advised.
¦ A discharge permit and the lowering of water quality could be approved by the MDEQ, Burie says, as long as “it can be shown that lowering the water quality is necessary to support the identified social and economic development in the area.”
¦ The destruction of ancient native American Indian burial sites. He said the “archaeological report for the Back Forty project identified several archaeological sites” that could be eligible for inclusion into the National Register of Historical Places.
“So what is in it (the mine project) for Wisconsin folks?” Burie said. “Absolutely nothing. Do we derive as a positive declining property values and chemically contaminated water? Water is life. Water determines the quality of life.
“Aquila has suggested the Flambeau Mine in Ladysmith, Wis., as an example of economic development. But if you take a close look at government statistics you will see the jobless rate remained the same before and after the project. Average household income stayed basically the same. The number of children in poverty remained the same.”
He said the Aquila mine would be much larger than the Flambeau mine.
“The Flambeau mine could not produce a clean mine that didn’t discharge contaminants into the Flambeau River,” Burie said. “The Back Forty mine project is three times the size of the Flambeau so if there is a problem it will definitely be much worse.”
Burie told the board there will be a public hearing on the proposed Aquila mining project from 6 to 10 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Stephenson High School, at which Aquila and the MDEQ will be represented, “and of course we will be represented.”
“As Wisconsin residents, we cannot afford to sit back and wait for our waters to to become contaminated, our property values to plummet, our air quality to become difficult to breath or constant blasting to disturb the peace and quiet that drew us here to build our homes, raise our families and love our neighbors,” he said. “Therefore we are asking the Board of Supervisors to stand with us and pass a resolution of opposition to the Aquila mine project.”
Bender said the size of the Aquila mine would be about 83 acres, more than double the 38.9 acres of Lambeau Field. He added the mining pit would be about 750 acres deep, twice the size of Lambeau, and 100 feet from the edge of the Menominee River.
He said the mine could produce between 20,0000 and 30,000 tons of cyanide per month and discharge 1.5 million gallons of treated and “potential sulfide acid water” each day.
“We live on top of an enormous abundance of clean water here in Marinette County,” Bender said. “Don’t allow Michigan mining rules and the Aquila Back Forty Project to jeopardize our water.
“Michigan DEQ does not regulate social or economic impacts. Having a sulfide mine on the banks of the Menominee River also will kill tourism and it will never come back. The land and river is too beautiful and has no place for a sulfuric acid mine on its banks, Let your representatives and the people of Marinette County know what is going on.”
Skubal said the MDEQ is currently in a 64-day public comment period that started Sept. 3 and will end Nov. 3.
“The MDEQ is required by law to issue a final mining permits decision on or before Dec. 1 of this year,” she said. “However, the public does not have access to all the information to evaluate the (wetlands and discharge elimination system) permits.
“There is little evidence that the MDEQ has considered the (possible) negative economic and environmental impacts and the loss of property values and sport fishing opportunities the mine pollution would have downstream or on Wisconsin communities.”