Protest against proposed mining near the Menominee River in Green Bay

Green Bay rally held against mining project: 'If I have to stand out in front of the machines and give my life, that’s what I’ll do' – Guy Reiter. About 40 environmental activists led by Indigenous water protectors gathered along the Fox River in downtown Green Bay on Friday to demonstrate against proposed mining near the Menominee River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. ( Article by Frank Vaisvilas - Green Bay Press-Gazette. Photo credit to Samantha Madar - USA Today Network - WI)


“This is the Menominee River, too,” said Guy Reiter, a Menominee tribal citizen whose Menominee name is Anahkwet and is the executive director of the Menominee community organization Menīkānaehkem, Inc. “The way we think about water is that all water is connected.”

Friday’s event brought awareness to the Back 40 Mine project in the Upper Peninsula.

The Menominee Nation, in federal court, has challenged efforts by Canada-based Aquila Resource to start its Back 40 Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that would extract gold, silver, zinc and copper.

Tribal officials argued the mine would harm the environment, affecting the water in the region, which is historically significant to the Menominee Nation.

The project is in limbo after a Michigan judge denied a wetland permit, but opponents worry another company could try again later this year.

Efforts by the tribe and environmentalists have helped thwart the project the last 20 years.

Most of the concern has stemmed from the fact that the mine would be on the banks of the Menominee River, separated from the waters by only an earthen dam.

The mine would operate on 83 acres and its pit would be 2,000 feet by 2,500 feet, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press. The life of the mine is estimated to be seven years, and it would produce thousands of pounds of zinc, gold, copper, lead and silver. An on-site processing mill would crush and refine the minerals and ores using flotation, separation and cyanide.

In addition to community concern, the Free Press report found there was concern surrounding the project from Michigan officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which are both involved in the permitting process. Some of those concerns were related to the impact on wetlands, which officials felt the company was underestimating.

Reiter said the Menominee River is the birthplace of the Menominee people, who were the first people in the area thousands of years ago, and tribal citizens and their allies will not stop opposing the Back 40 Mine.

“If I have to stand out in front of the machines and give my life, that’s what I’ll do,” he said.

Reiter recalled a 120-mile march he was a part of in opposition to the mine from the Menominee Reservation to the mining site.

“It was probably one of the best things I did in my life even though it was one of the hardest,” he said.

Friday’s rally in Green Bay started with a Menominee water ceremony in which water was collected from the river in a copper kettle and a song and a prayer were recited to give thanks to the water and to remind people of the importance of the resource.

Water from a well in Keshena on the Menominee Reservation also was given to attendees to drink.

Reiter also mentioned Indigenous opposition to the Line 5 oil pipeline project in northern Wisconsin.

Canada-based Enbridge Energy is rerouting the Line 5 pipeline around the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation at the request of the tribe.

About 12 miles of active pipeline pass through the reservation, but as easements have started to expire the tribe filed a lawsuit in 2019 to have the pipeline removed.

The company is planning a new 41.2-mile section around the reservation, but tribal officials and activists are calling for greater scrutiny of the project arguing that construction and operation threatens rare plants and animals in the area.

Members of the Wisconsin attorney general’s task force investigating violence against Indigenous people are also concerned workers on the project could bring sex trafficking given the company’s history in Minnesota.

“We think we have domination over the Earth and nature, but really we’re a part of it,” Reiter said.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Laura Schulte contributed to this report.


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*Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Contact: Al Gedicks
Address: 14 Copeland Avenue # 115, LaCrosse, WI 54603

Phone: 608-784-4399