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Comprehensive Mine Permitting for Complex Polymetallic Deposit in Michigan

Comprehensive Mine Permitting for Complex Polymetallic Deposit in Michigan

Background

The Back Forty Project is an advanced stage developmental polymetallic zinc-gold-copper-silver deposit located in Menominee County, Michigan. The deposit is being developed by Aquila Resources Inc. Foth has led all environmental aspects of the project serving as the prime consultant for all state and federal permits, and providing input to the feasibility study as the owner’s representative.

Approach

Since 2006, Foth prepared a comprehensive assessment of permitting, regulatory and social risks associated with development of this project. Based on that assessment, we developed a regulatory and permitting strategy for the project that has been used to guide the project through subsequent Preliminary Economic Assessments, Feasibility Studies, and permitting efforts. Since 2009, Foth has served as lead environmental consultant to conduct hydrologic studies, hydrologic modeling, wetland hydrology studies, geochemical studies, facilities engineering, and prepare the environmental impact assessment. These efforts have include preparation of mine closure plans, reclamation plans, financial assurance estimates, mine water management and treatment plans, and multi-media environmental monitoring plans. In addition, Foth has led the preparation of all environmental permit applications and environmental impacts assessments necessary for project construction,

Foth was engaged in litigation defending the Mining Permit and Environmental Impact Assessment, Wetlands Permit, and other permits. Our expert witnesses testified on matters related to surface water hydrology, hydrogeologic characterization, groundwater modeling, geochemical characterization, site engineering, mine reclamation and mine closure, impacts related to mine dewatering, water quality impacts to the Menominee River related to long-term closure, cumulative impacts, contingency planning, financial assurance, and site monitoring.

Results

In 2015 Foth filed the Mine Permit Application, Environmental Impact Assessment, Air Permit Application, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit Application and Wetlands Permit Application. The Mining Permit and Air Permit were approved by State Regulators in December 2016. The NDPES Permit was approved in April 2017. The Wetlands Permit was approved in June 2018. In November 2018, Amended Permit Applications were prepared by Foth for the Mining Permit and Air Permit. In addition, 2018 Foth prepared a Dam Safety Permit Application for a modified tailings facility. The Amended Mining Permit and Air Permit were approved by State Regulators in December 2019. The Dam Safety Permit Application remains under review by State Regulators.

The Project is currently involved in several legal challenges to the permits. Foth members have appeared for extensive expert witness testimony in the 2018 Contested Case Hearing on the Mining Permit and Environmental Impact Assessment. In that proceeding, the Administrative Law Judge ruled in favor of Aquila Resources. Foth members appeared as expert witnesses in the 2019 Contested Case Hearing on the Wetlands Permit. Foth members will be appearing as expert witnesses in the forthcoming Contested Case Hearing on the Amended Mining Permit. Positive judicial rulings have also been obtained in two federal district court proceedings, and one Circuit Court of Appeals proceeding.

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