The Back Forty – A Michigan Gold Mine

Aquila’s flagship Back Forty Project is a volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit located along the mineral-rich Penokean Volcanic Belt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Valuable metals are deposited in the ore along the Menominee River which represents the state line between Michigan and Wisconsin. The Back Forty Project currently demonstrates a 16.1 million ton measured and indicated (M&I) resource containing close to 1 million ounces of gold and 1 billion pounds of zinc. The Back Forty Project sits on the banks of the Menominee River which drains to Lake Michigan via Green Bay just north of the eponymous city.  RMP has created an interactive Google Map of the Back Forty Gold Mine which is embedded at the bottom of this post if you’d like to go directly to the Google Map.  Or you can just click here to open RMP’s interactive Google Map of the BackForty goldmine in a new browser tab.

Aquila now owns 100% of the development-stage Back Forty Project that will delineate the zinc- and gold-rich VMS in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Over the past 10 years, Toronto based Aquila Resources and various joint venture partners, including Hudbay Minerals, have spent more than $70 million exploring and advancing Back Forty. The target money bogey estimated for the Back Forty Project to get off the ground is $261 million and the project looks like it might commence execution in 2016.

Aquila Resources field equipment for surveying Michigan minerals. The mineral deposit was discovered as economic in 2002. Foth has been surveying the land since 2006.
Aquila Resources field equipment for surveying Michigan minerals. The mineral deposit was discovered as economic in 2002. Foth, an infrastructure & environmental company, has been surveying land in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 2006 (Photo Credit:  Aquila Resources)

In July 2014, Aquila released results from a new preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the Back Forty Project. The PEA contemplates mining 16.1Mt of mineralized material over the 16-year life of mine (“LOM”), of which 12.5Mt is open-pit and 3.6Mt is underground. A full color investor presentation released on September 15, 2015 can be found at this link.

RMP will detail a brief description of the Back Forty Gold & Zinc Project and show some key parts of the permit application currently sitting in front of Michigan’s OOGM (Office of Oil / Gas & Minerals) for approval. Before getting on with our story on the Back Forty Project, however, RMP would like to do something not normally done in our blog posts and make a solicitation to our readers to fund more research on this project. RMP has much more information related to the Back Forty Project and many other interesting projects that affect Michigan’s environment and economy. It is impossible without financing for our small organization to detail and distill all this information to make it easier and free for the public to know about. If you take interest in our reading material and would like to see the many more stories we could produce for the public if financed, will you consider making a small tax deductible donation to RMP by CLICKING HERE?

We are a Michigan based 501(c)3 organization dedicated to global freshwater conservation issues through waste management, sustainable electricity generation, and the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy source. We analyze freshwater issues with a global perspective as well as a local Michigan perspective.   Read through our blog pages and check out our exclusive mapping software and you’ll know that RMP has software and data that other sites simply cannot match like this story about the Back Forty Gold Mine Project.  Because our revenues are so small, however, we don’t have the means to broadcast the wealth of information we have.  Please consider a monetary donation to by CLICKING HERE so our fledgling organization can bring the public more of the information citizens care about. RMP can make our demonstration map of the Back Forty Project at the end of this post about a million times better so public citizens can have a free of charge interactive connection to the gigabytes of information RMP has collected related to the project. But, we can’t make our Back Forty Map very detailed without a financial contribution from you. Thank you! Now back to the story.

A surveyor works in Michigan's Upper Pensula. Geologists like the worker in this photo have been hard at work for over a decade learning every geological nook and cranny of a volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit.
A geologist works in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Geologists like the worker in this photo have been hard at work for over a decade learning every geological nook and cranny of a volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit along the Menominee River which draws the winding state line between Michigan & Wisconsin. (Photo Credit:  Aquila Resources)

Toronto based Aquila suggests to investors the potentiality to mine 721 million pounds of zinc, 532 thousand ounces of gold, 74 million pounds of copper, 4.6 million ounces of silver, and 21 million pounds of lead near the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The project area is generally remote from towns and villages. The closest communities in Michigan are Daggett and Stephenson, located approximately 17 kilometers east of the project area and Banat, located approximately 13 kilometers northeast of the project area. The project area is located across the Menominee River from Amberg, Cedarville, and Wausaukee in Wisconsin, located in Marinette County. RMP has built a map that is embedded at the end of this post so you can reference the Back Forty location geospatially. Our maps are fully interactive and our exclusive geospatial data storage technology allows RMP to file information by latitude & longitude on location. You can help fund the Aquila Gold & Zinc Mine Map and make it evolve into a better map by CLICKING HERE to make a small tax-deductible donation.

A preliminary economic assessement (PEA) of the Back Forty Project is still under review for the Aquila Gold & Zinc Mine. Aquila suggests to investors that the $261 million (mm) dollar initial capital investment would get the project started and consist of $177mm in direct capital expenditures, $44mm of contingency, and $40mm of indirect and owner’s assets. The initial throughput rate is predicted at 5,340 tons per day of rock.   The average on-site operating costs are estimated at $29.95 per ton processed open-pit and $66.20 per ton processed for subsurface rock. Aquila’s estimate is justified to investors with $1.5 billion USD of life of mine (LOM) gross revenue on the low end and $2.0 billion USD LOM revenue on the high end.  The LOM is estimated at 16 years.  Aquila management seems poised to move on the Back Forty Project as it’s flagship revenue driver starting in 2016.

Aquila Resources announced board changes December 15, 2015. Edward (Ted) Munden, a director with the Company since 2001, was appointed as interim Chairman of the Board.   Mr. Munden, a 35 year veteran in the mining industry, will succeed Mark Burridge, who stepped down in order to focus on other opportunities.  Mr. Burridge will remain as an advisor to Aquila for a fixed term providing as-needed services in the future.  The board changes were made 10 days before Christmas and were effective immediately.

Back Forty Mineral Production
These numbers have been presented to investors and are currently under an official preliminary economic assessment (PEA). When the PEA has been reviewed and approved, investment will begin. Most likely the first year of the 16 year life project will begin sometime in 2016 after approval from the MDEQ’s OOGM.  Click to enlarge. (Source)

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Mark for all of his past contributions to the Company and wish him well in all of his future endeavours,” said Mr. Munden, Aquila’s Lead Director and incoming Chairman. “In his time with the Company, Mark played a key role in the Aquila Resources and RebGold merger in 2013 that resulted in the Company acquiring 100 percent ownership of its Back Forty project from Hudbay Minerals.”

Outgoing Chairman, Mark Burridge, stated: “The last two years have been transformational for Aquila. The Company has strengthened its management team, submitted its key permit application [to the MDEQ’s OOGM] and is funded to move the Project through its next phase of development.  With these milestones achieved, it is an appropriate time for me to focus attention on other interests.”

The permit that Mark Burridge is speaking of has been in the making since 2006, is now final at version “E”, and is most likely being reviewed in Cadillac at Michigan’s Office of Oil, Gas, & Minerals at this moment.  Follow us on Twitter or like us on facebook and we will announce when the permit for the Back Forty Project has been approved by the MDEQ’s OOGM.  Hudbay and Aquila have completed over 10 years of geological and hydrological research and have already spent $70 million on the Back Forty Project permitting process.  The VMS ore deposit was discovered in Michigan in 2002. The applications for permitting of the mining operation are voluminous and so very detailed.   Not only are each of the application versions hundreds of pages, Aquila’s most recent application iteration is version E, or the fifth revision, and its over 353 pages of technical data both geospatial, geological, and hydrological. Information is laid out in detail regarding stratigraphy, geochemistry, configurations, tailings, waste rock, leachate, Et al. The information is organized perfectly to fit into one of our exclusive RMP custom maps using the Google Maps API v3 with overlays and polygons.  If you want to read more about mining regulations in Michigan you can check out the MDEQ’s landing page for mining here.

Foth Infrastructure & Environment prepared the mining permit application with research done over the past decade. Figure 1-1 shows the location of the project area. Surface facilities to support the project are shown on Figure 1-2.

RMP has gigabytes of incredibly detailed maps that we can graft to a Google Maps API v3 canvas with JavaScript and PHP so you can interact with it. Our software is exclusive and unlike any environmental mapping software on the internet. But, we cannot build great maps that are free of charge to the public without financial support. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to our Michigan 501(c)3 based organization.
Fig 1-1   –   RMP has gigabytes of incredibly detailed maps that we can graft to a Google Maps API v3 canvas with JavaScript and PHP so you can interact with it. Our software is exclusive and unlike any environmental mapping software on the internet. But, we cannot build great maps that are free of charge to the public without financial support. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to our Michigan 501(c)3 based organization.  Click image to enlarge. (Source: MDEQ)


map of back forty project menominee river
Fig 1-2   –   Imagine this map as a transparency grafted to a Google Map with clickable data points. Seem impossible on a shoe string budget? Nope. Consider making a small donation so we share a new kind of mapping software as a public environmental exposition tool. Our website will always be free of charge to the public. Click image to enlarge. (Source:  MDEQ)


Michigan’s Nonferrous Metallic Mining Regulations, Part 632 of the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA) (MCL §324.63201 et. seq.) outlines requirements for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) needed to obtain permits for mining projects.  You can read Michigan’s entire Part 362 codex for non-ferrous metal mining by clicking here.

The Back Forty Project activities include open pit mining of a volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit that contains economic grades of zinc, copper, and gold. Project activities include construction, drilling, blasting, hauling, crushing, and certain reclamation activities. The layout of the mine pit and the Flotation and Leach Tailings and Waste Rock Management Facilities (TWRMFs) are shown on Figure 1-3 below.

The following is a summary of the key aspects of the Project mining actions and operational impacts:

  1. Construction – Installation of the cut off wall around the western edge of the open pit and constructing on-site buildings and facilities east of the pit will produce some noise at the outset of the Project. The construction phase is expected to last for two years.
  2. Drilling and blasting – Noise will be created during drilling and blasting taking place intermittently throughout mine operations.
  3. Truck traffic – Haul trucks will be used for ore and waste rock transport between the pit and the crusher and various stockpiles during the mine operation period. Smaller trucks will be used to transport various consumables and ore concentrates using the mine road. In accordance with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations, all mine vehicles will be equipped with back-up alarms. Noise will be created by truck traffic as well as back-up alarms.
  4. TWRMF operation – Waste rock will be deposited to the TWRMF by haul trucks and graded into place. Noise will be produced by dumping and grading of the waste rock. 
 TWRMF stands for Tailings and Waste Rock Management Facility.
  5. Crushing operations – Ore will be transferred from the storage area to an enclosed crusher where the rock will be crushed and transferred to feed stockpiles. On-site crushers will produce noise throughout the lifetime of the mine, approximately seven years.
  6. Reclamation – During mine reclamation the open pit will be backfilled, which will produce some construction and transportation noise. The TWRMF will be graded and covered also creating some construction noise.

The project area lies within the Menominee River Watershed, which covers an area of 
9.3 square kilometers in the U.P. of MI and northeast WI (USEPA, 2015). The project area is bound on the west by the Menominee River. The east side of the Menominee River consists of a series of steep-sided, narrow terraces reflecting flood plains of successively older river channels, bounded by a broad ridge that generally parallels the river. The terraces and ridge are dissected and incised in places by surface drainages flowing toward the river.

The topography of the project area has been formed by glacial deposition and surface water movement. The project area occupies a topographic high between the Menominee and Shakey Rivers. The ground surface slopes steeply to the west immediately adjacent to the Menominee River and, in general, rises gently from west to east across the project area. The Menominee River along the western portion of the project area lies at an elevation of approximately 207 meters above mean sea level (amsl) and the highest point within the project area, in the southeastern portion, is at an elevation of approximately 271 meters amsl. Therefore, approximately 64 meters of elevation difference exists between the Menominee River and the highest point in the project area. To the east of the project area, the Shakey River is at an elevation of about 219 meters amsl. The general topography across the region slopes to the south, and both the Menominee River and the Shakey River flow in a southerly direction adjacent to the project area. The project area is wooded, as is much of the surrounding land, interspersed with farm land.

Water quality standard comparisons were made for copper, lead, zinc, and mercury. For copper, lead, and zinc, the comparison shows that water quality remains within protective water quality standards for the Highest Predicted Concentration, a conservative estimate of the potential water quality arising from deposition from the Project.

menominee river dam
Aerial view of the hydrologic power plant at the White Rapids river dam on the Menominee. The White Rapids dam is just north of where Aquila Resources’ Back Forty Project might begin as early as 2016. The average water flow through the White Rapids dam is roughly 3,000 cubic feet per second according to The Menominee drains to Lake Michigan through Green Bay. (Photo Credit: Aquila Resources)

Mercury is a constituent typically present in water bodies throughout the state and region at levels higher than the water quality standard. Mercury baseline concentrations for the two water bodies considered also have baseline exceedances. The evaluation for the Project can be performed by considering the increment ratio. The increment has been estimated as a fraction of baseline concentration.

Sulfur was evaluated as the sulfate ion in both water quality and deposition rate analysis. Although no water quality standard is available, the deposition increment estimated was a fraction of 1%, indicating minimal water quality impacts from sulfur from the Project.

A theoretical wet sulfate deposition rate evaluation was performed. Michigan has no specific deposition standards so the Minnesota protective wet sulfate deposition standard was used for the analysis. The comparison shows that the highest predicted sulfate deposition rate estimated for the Project complies with the Minnesota standard.

As for geological specifics related to the Back Forty Project, the area is developed within a highly altered sequence of rhyolite breccias and pyroclastic rocks cut by dikes, sills and irregular intrusions of porphyritic dacite and rhyodacite. Late mafic dikes and at least one dioritic to gabbroic intrusive intrude the felsic sequence.

Structurally, this rhyolite sequence and associated massive sulfide mineralization has been deformed into an asymmetric, moderately southwest plunging anticlinal fold characterized by a gently dipping north limb, and a steeply dipping and sheared south limb. Folding has produced an axial planar schistosity and faulting has offset lithologies and created zones of weakness for younger intrusive rocks.

Aquila Resources back forty project
Fig 1-3   –   RMP can turn a static map into an interactive Google Map. Imagine the map above with the same points, polylines, and polygons grafted to the hundreds of thousands of Google Map tiles that were clickable data repositories for detailed environmental data. That’s what RMP does; we bring big data to life with JavaScript & PHP. Click to enlarge photo.

Altered host rocks form assemblages of quartzsericitepyrite throughout an extensive area surrounding the known mineralization. The degree and extent of this alteration is evidence for a large and long-lived hydrothermal system and suggests the potential for additional mineralization in the area.

RMP has a wealth of information and gigabytes more to share but our annual revenues for the past five years have generally been less than the cost of taking a family of four out for a steak dinner. RMP does not have a lot of revenue, but the mapping software RMP provides as a public resource is priceless.  Respectmyplanet’s data exposition tools use exclusive interactive maps that are intuitive and fast. The Back Forty Gold & Zinc Mine Map shown below is just a framework for a cool map. RMP has extensive overlays and polygons that can be grafted to the map with JavaScript and PHP but RMP does not have the financial means to expand our software and datasets into awesome maps. You can help by CLICKING HERE to make a tax deductible donation to our Michigan based 501(c)3 organization. We provide free information to any public citizen with an internet connection and we will never charge a fee or sell out for spam revenue. RMP is the real deal when it comes to geology, economics, and environmental protection. If you’re one of the thousands of readers who have stopped by over the past couple of months to read the content RMP supplies free of charge and want to help foster getting more information to the public, please consider making a donation if you can afford it. Thank you.

Check Out A Sample of Our Back Forty Gold & Zinc Mine Interactive Map Below

The map below is small example of what RMP’s Back Forty Gold & Zinc Mine Map could be.  It has a single overlay at 50% transparency grafted to a Google Map.  Multiple overlays could be added or subtracted.  Opacity could be dialed up or down to user preference.  Access to an SQL database is available for every clickable item to be a living repository for information.  Public users could swap multiple overlays and add or subtract real time information to RMP’s living map for basic education, news events, or for emergencies. RMP has acquired gigabytes of environmental and economic data that we can graft to a virtual representation of the earth using the Google Maps API v3 and advanced JavaScript & PHP very quickly. School room teachers can use our mapping software as a free public service, interested public citizens can use our mapping software, environmental organizations, economists, and many others can too. Our website will always be free to the general public. RMP can give environmental data more depth than has been seen on the internet to date. But, RMP’s Back Forty Gold & Zinc map cannot reach its full potential without financing. Please consider CLICKING HERE to make a donation to our organization if you want to help us get information to the public like our Back Forty Gold & Zinc Map.  We are a Michigan based 501(c)3 non-profit organization and your donations are tax deductible.  Your contribution can make this map better.  Thanks!

Michigan Back Forty Gold & Zinc Mine Map

Click Here To Enlarge “Back Forty” Map

  Click Here Full Screen “Back Forty” Map


8 Replies to “The Back Forty – A Michigan Gold Mine”

  1. The tailings pond so close to the river is a major spill diaster waiting to happen. I live on this river and it is NOT remote. Marinette and Menominne lay south of this site. Who will take care of us who live on the river…our wells, our property values, and the caustic materials in the river. This company can walk away from any diaster as it is a LLC. It isn’t a matter if a diaster will happen, it is a matter of when.

    1. I used to live in Menominee, and am aghast at the thought of such a mine so close to such an important waterway. Just learning about the story – I have to wonder who in Lake County gave the initial approval for this disaster waiting to happen (and what their motivations were, with this much money in play) and whether the project has been review by the DNR and other state and federal agencies, given the obvious horrible environmental effects that will (not could, will) follow.

  2. My wife and I own a home on the river approx 1 mile to the south. We bought this property in hopes to retire here. If this goes through, the peace and quite will be gone, the clean air will be gone. the starry nights gone, the property values gone, the enjoyment of the river gone. I will not be able to sell to anyone, so my investment will be gone. I don’t know what we can do about it. We are just sick about this and don’t have the money to fight them. Everything we looked forward to will go up in a cloud of DUST.

  3. This proposed mine would be less than 150 feet from the river, on the site of burial mounds and ancient garden beds of the Indigenous Menominee tribe, and threatening the habitat of the endangered lake sturgeon, endangered long eared bat, mussels, milk thistle and Shakey Lakes Savanah. No way! Aquila Mine Go Away!

  4. If you found a gold mine like they have, would you just leave it there, no. I would be doing exactly what is going on, even if I lived right across from it. If you have a chance to change your life for the better, you do it, don’t You?

    1. You are not like most people then. Money wouldn’t matter much if the toxins from the mine made you sick and shortened your life! Please think about other people besides yourself. Aren’t you the least concerned about what type of planet we leave behind for our kids, Grand kids and their offspring in the decades to come? I’ll bet that you don’t believe in global climate change are one of those who are trying to “Make America Great Again!”

  5. I formerly lived in Menominee, since I’ve gotten a MA in geology majoring in geomagnetics and hard rock formations.
    Questions: How has this company performed on similar projects? And their contractors? What if the ‘mineral pay zone’ extends under the service areas? What indemnities are provided for legitimate failures? Are legal council certified exploration geologists? Do the landowners have legal council?

    1. Certainly good questions Jerry. I don’t know & can’t pretend to know the answers. Anyone reading is free to offer up answers. Some of the answers might be obtained through research you can do from internet searches.

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