Opponents of Back 40 mine ask Menominee City Council for support

MENOMINEE, Mich. (WBAY) -- Opponents of a proposed mine on the Wisconsin-Michigan border have a week of protests ahead of them and started Monday with a plea to the Menominee city council.

Dozens filled the council chambers asking members to join them in the fight against the project.

The proposed site is just across the Wisconsin border in the U.P., along the bank of the Menominee River about 15 miles west of Stephenson, Michigan.

Last year, after hearing from residents against the back 40 project, Marinette County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution opposing the mine and opponents were hoping to get that same support from Menominee City Council members Monday night.

“We are asking the city council of Menominee to please consider passing a resolution against any sulfide mine,” said Tina Lasperance.

As Canadian-based mining company, Aquila Resources, works to get their fourth and final permit approved for the Back 40 Project, residents are making one last effort to stop it by raising concerns over clean water and the disruption of Native American burial sites.

“I am here imploring you as a council to consider how we are we going to keep our drinking water safe?” said Pat Johnson.

“I am a Menominee Indian Tribal member and I have concerns about when we put our people in the ground to rest, as you do, and now they want to dig them up?” said J Win.

But in a statement, Communications Manager for the Back Forty Project Robin Quigley, says, “Several archaeological studies have been performed on the Project site, and no identified resources will be disturbed by the Back Forty Project. Our permit also includes an Unanticipated Discovery Plan in the event that additional cultural resources are subsequently encountered during operation. Back Forty’s studies and the assurances related to the protection of cultural resources go well beyond what is required under Michigan’s non-ferrous metallic mining statute. “

Quigley also says Aquila is committed to complying with all of Michigan’s mining regulations and laws.

Menominee Mayor Jean Stegeman said there isn't much they can do, but she does plan to call a special city council meeting to see how other members feel about the issue.

“We are limited. The governor is not going to say, ‘oh well now the city of Menominee’s city council has spoken out, I guess we are going to stop this’ but I think the citizens have a right to know where each and every person stands as far as this mine is concerned,” said Stegeman.

However, those in the room on Monday believe any little support helps.

“If the city council says we think this is a bad idea and we don't want this in our town, someone is going to listen, someone is going to pay attention,” said Marlene Nelson. “If enough people do that, it's going to help.”

On Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., opponents of the mine are planning to protest outside of Ogden Club in Menominee during the Chamber of Commerce Dinner After Hours because it is being hosted by Aquila Resources.

On Saturday, April 22, opponents will gather on Stephenson Island for a protest at 11:30 a.m.