LANSING, Mich. — Upper Peninsula lawmakers on Monday expressed displeasure with a recent Michigan administrative law judge decision to overturn a previously approved wetlands permit for the proposed Back Forty Mine in Menominee County, which is set to mine gold, zinc, and copper.
“Mining has been a critical component of the Upper Peninsula way of life for generations,” said Sens. Ed McBroom and Wayne Schmidt, and Reps. Greg Markkanen, Beau LaFave and Sara Cambensy. “Our state has enacted some of the most stringent mining and environmental regulations in the world to ensure that Michigan mines must operate as good stewards and valued parts of our local communities.
“This decision by one judge is based on an additional layer of expectations that themselves are based on unreasonable ‘what if’ scenarios raised by interest groups that have been against the proposed mine since day one. It is a huge disservice to U.P. residents and is exactly the type of nonsense that we are fed up with — decisions based on misinformed environmental rhetoric that seek to inhibit our land-based industries and way of life.”
Lawmakers said experts with the Back Forty Mine have diligently worked to address specific and reasonable issues throughout the four-year-long wetlands permit review process with multiple revisions and considerations made. The permit was ultimately approved by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy in June 2018 after meticulous reviews and public hearings. Mining opponents then sought to challenge the permit, which is the basis for the judge’s Jan. 4 decision.
During the construction phase, the Back Forty project is expected to provide about 350 jobs for two years in various skilled trades, including ironworkers, operators, electricians, carpenters and painters. Additionally, once fully operational, the mine would employ an estimated 240 mining and business professionals full time.
“Through a rigorous process with EGLE, this permit was rightly approved, and we remain hopeful that the department will work with Aquila to address this wrongful rejection of the permit,” the lawmakers said. “It is not right for companies like this who work in good faith to comply with stringent and effective laws to then have extra and duplicative layers of requirements imposed or a judge revoking a properly issued permit over two and a half years after the permit was granted. It is unfair and untenable for businesses to have to deal with a moving goal post, which will drive away investment in the U.P. to the detriment of all.
“We vow to work together in stressing the importance of this project and reasonable regulations overall, as one U.P., to ensure that one judge’s decision is not the policy position advanced in Michigan. Our communities want and support mining in the U.P. now as in the past generations.”