Potential mining disaster on the Menominee River?

    Aftermath of the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil. Photo by TV NBR (CC BY 3.0)
    Aftermath of the Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil. Photo by TV NBR (CC BY 3.0)

    Michigan and Wisconsin could face devastating environmental damage if an open-pit mine near Lake Michigan releases toxic waste into the two states’ waterways, Al Gedicks reports in Urban Milwaukee.

    The planned “Back Forty” metallic sulfide mine, owned by Aquila Resources, a Canadian exploration company, would cover 123 acres next to the Menominee River on the Michigan-Wisconsin border.

    The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and local residents on both sides of the Menominee River spoke out against the project at a public hearing in June.

    The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is not involved in the approval process, since the mine would be sited in Michigan, and state authorities there are responsible for its approval.

    Despite evidence of the danger that a dam designed to contain tailings—waste left over after the minerals have been extracted from ore—could spill toxic waste into Lake Michigan, regulators in Michigan approved the mining company’s application for a wetlands permit.

    The tailings dam’s design is associated with the January 2019 Brazilian tailings dam disaster that killed at least 250 people in Brazil’s deadliest-ever mining accident,” Gedicks reports, and there have been 46 tailings dam failures in the last 20 years.

    Nevertheless, “the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) appears ready to approve the dam’s design,” according to Gedicks. 

    The mine was welcomed by Michigan’s former Republican governor Rick Snyder. In 2018 Michigan elected Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer.

    Read more at Urban Milwaukee


    Ruth Conniff
    Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine, and opened the Progressive’s office in Washington, DC, during the Clinton Administration, where she made her debut as a political pundit on CNN’s Capital Gang Sunday and Fox News. She moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, for a year in 2017, where she covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Donald Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on All in with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, and other radio and television programs. In 2011, she did award-winning coverage of the uprising against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Conniff graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal.


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