Aquila Resources announced they will be pursuing substantial changes to the proposed design of their Back Forty Mine. In March Aquila engaged Osisko Technical Services (“OTS”) to lead an optimized feasibility study for the Back Forty Project. A key objective of the optimized Feasibility Study is to reflect feedback from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (“EGLE”) and the local community since the original Back Forty permits were issued. By incorporating an underground mine plan in the Feasibility Study and modifying the Project footprint, the Company expects to demonstrate substantially reduced surface impact, including wetland impacts, and a longer mine life for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Subject to securing additional funding, Aquila’s objective is to complete the Feasibility Study in Q4 2021.
Aquila now believes the most efficient path to shovel-ready status is to focus efforts on successfully permitting the optimized Feasibility Study design. As such, the Company has determined not to proceed with its appeal of the January 2021 decision by an Administrative Law Judge to deny the prior issuance of the Wetlands Permit. The Feasibility Study team is focused on a design seeking to avoid direct impacts to wetlands. Even if a Wetlands Permit is required, Aquila expects that it will be able to secure a re-issued permit from EGLE based on the fieldwork already completed.
The Company has also determined not to proceed with the contested case of the amended Mining Permit. As the amended Mining Permit only contemplates the open pit portion of the Project, there is no benefit to continuing to dedicate resources to a permit under which the Company does not plan to proceed. Following the completion of the Feasibility Study, the Company will submit an application for a Mining Permit that reflects the optimized design, including the underground mine plan. Should a Wetlands Permit and Dam Safety Permit be required, the Company will submit applications for these permits concurrent with the Mining Permit application.
The Company is maintaining its Air Permit and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit in good standing and will proceed with timely renewals of these permits, as required.
In a statement, The Coalition to SAVE the Menominee River says it is pleased that the decision of the Administrative law judge on the wetlands permit will stand. They also say they have significant concerns that extensive underground mining and the corresponding groundwater drawdown will have as much or even more impacts on the watershed and could be an even greater threat to the health of the Menominee River.