Potential mining disaster on the Menominee River?

By: - September 18, 2019 8:29 pm
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


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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is the author of "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" which won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel award from The New Press. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.