DEQ issues wetlands permit for Aquila mining project following EPA review

Agency: Environmental Quality

June 4, 2018

For more information: 
DEQ Media Office, deq-assist@michigan.gov, 800-662-9278

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) today announced that, based on the advice and guidance from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it has issued a wetlands permit for the Aquila Resources Back Forty (Aquila) mining project in the Upper Peninsula.

Under the terms of the permit, the DEQ is requiring Aquila to develop an enhanced groundwater modelling and monitoring plan consistent with industry best-practices for the proposed open-pit mine before permitted mining operations can commence. The site-specific plan must include a wetland water budget model; collection of existing baseline groundwater and wetland data; and annual monitoring data to guard nearby wetlands against potential adverse impacts. The wetland plan must also be adaptive, with additional protective measures required if adverse water or wetland impacts are detected during the life of the project.

Aquila will also be required to develop state-of-the-art controls aimed at spill prevention and response to potential pollution releases from the mining operations including, chemicals used and stored on site, and the storage and disposal of waste rock.

Aquila must also develop a closure plan for the mine which includes a plan for returning the waste rock to the pit in a way that eliminates future impacts to surface and ground water.

Last month the EPA and Aquila resolved several objections the EPA had raised about the project near the Menominee River and Wisconsin border, creating an EPA-supported framework which the DEQ followed in drafting the permit.

The issuance of the permit complies with the statutory required permitting deadline, while allowing Aquila to continue to collect the data necessary to develop improved site-specific models and plans that must be approved by DEQ prior to beginning mining operations.

The wetlands permit is the fourth and final permit required from the DEQ before Aquila can begin the project.  The DEQ had previously issued mining, air, and surface water discharge permits for the project.

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