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Lectures, Tours Offered On Proposed Back Forty Mine

Whether the proposed Aquila Resources "Back Forty Mine" project on the Menominee River is to be or not to be may be decided on Thursday, Dec. 1. That is the deadline for Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to announce whether it will or will not issue the mining permit developers need to proceed with their proposed open pit metallic sulfide mine on a site that starts about 100 feet from the Menominee River near Shakey Lakes Park in Lake Township, Menominee County, Mich.

Over a decade ago, gold, zinc, copper and possibly other precious and/or useful metals were found there in appreciable quantities. Since then, Aquila Mineral Resources, a Canadian company, has been working toward development of what is called the Back Forty Project.

If the permit is issued, there still could be other roadblocks, including road relocations, wetlands permits, etc.

According to Tom Boerner, a property owner in the proposed mine area, Menominee County Road Commission is having a special meeting with Aquila representatives at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15 at the Road Commission office just north of Stephenson, Mich. to discuss their request to abandon and relocate all or part of the existing River Road in Lake and Holmes townships to make way for the mine.

The existing road is partly paved and partly what is called a "sand road," Boerner said. He is concerned that the proposed new road will run along the edge of the 500-foot deep mine pit, and will cross through wetland areas. He believes Aquila has been advised by MDEQ and the EPA to do more tests and resubmit its road relocation application because of the effect on wetlands. He owns about a mile of Menominee River frontage and is concerned about being able to get to and from his property because of the limited space between the river banks and the proposed mine wall.

Meanwhile, mine opponent organizations, including Front Forty, Save The Menominee River, Citizens Against The Back Forty Mine and Protectors of the Menominee River continue their efforts to raise public awareness to what they say are dangers of the mine.

The second night of a multi-city lecture series organized by Friends of the Menominee River will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday Dec. 2 in Room M117 at UW-Marinette. The event, open without charge to anyone interested in learning more about the project, is intended to raise community awareness about the threat of possible contamination to the Menominee River, according to Guy Reiter, a spokesman for the group.

The lecture series is just part of their efforts. Reiter said every Saturday from now until the snow flies Menominee Indian tribe members will be escorting tours of the many archaeological sites in the mine area, including the ancient 60 Islands Menominee Village. The tours will start at 1 p.m. at N9343 River Road with tour guides to point out points of historical importance. Tour guides on Saturday, Dec. 3 will be Don and Dan Wilbur. 

Publicity for the Dec. 2 lecture event at UW-Marinette describes it as "...an evening of awareness, education, inspiration and empowerment for people of all ages." It will feature distinguished speakers such as Reiter, Al Gedicks, Ada Deer, and Laura Gauger, with musical performances by Wade Fernandez. There also will be time for the public to make comments and ask questions, Reiter said.

 Reiter, who will serve as master of ceremonies, is a delegate from the Menominee Nation who has worked with the Menominee Tribe on archaeological studies with Dr. David Overstreet on the Sixty Islands Archaeological Sites of the prehistoric Menominee Village Complex.

Gedicks, the keynote speaker, is a Professor of Sociology at UW-LaCrosse & Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy. Event publicity says for many years he has been an advocate for sustainable mining practices with low environmental impact.

Honored Guest Ada Deer, is a member of the Menominee Tribe of Indians who served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior to President Clinton, head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and United Nation's delegate.

Gauger is co-author with Roscoe Churchill of the book, "The Buzzards Have Landed: The Real Story of the Flambeau Mine." She has accumulated detailed analysis of mining regulations impacting ground and surface water quality at the Flambeau Mine site.

Fernandez, billed as an internationally acclaimed musical performing artist just back from Germany and Austria, will be entertaining throughout the event.

Reiter said another possible stop for the lecture series is being planed for Appleton, with date and place not yet decided.

The proposed mine site, located about 100 feet from the Menominee River in Stephenson, Mich., is directly across the river from a residential/recreational subdivision on Otter Way, which is located off Squaw Creek Road in the Town of Wausaukee, Marinette County, on the Wisconsin side. Earlier this year Marinette County Board unanimously supported a resolution opposing the Back Forty project and urging Michigan not to issue the permit.

Mine opponents say the proposed operation would create dust and noise pollution and potentially destroy fishing, hunting and tourism in parts of both counties, and any mishap at the proposed open pit sulfide mine could pollute the Menominee River and ground water from there to the waters of Green Bay at Menekaunee Harbor in Marinette.

Proponents say the mine would bring badly needed jobs and prosperity to an economically depressed area.

It all started about a decade ago, when Aquila Resources announced that "significant deposits" of gold, silver, zinc and copper had been found in Lake and Holmes townships on the Michigan side of the Menominee River just two miles northwest of Shakey Lakes Park in in Menominee County and efforts were started to get a mine underway. That proposal has generated a firestorm of opposition from some area residents and from members of the Menominee Tribe of Indians, who say it encroaches on sites of historical importance to them, including ancient burial grounds and raised gardens.


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