Aquila to sell mining interests in Wisconsin to focus on Back Forty mine
A Canadian mining company plans to sell its interest in two central Wisconsin ore deposits containing gold and copper as it turns its business interests towards mine Back Forty on the Michigan side of the Menominee River.
Aquila Resources on Tuesday announced plans to sell the Reef deposit in Marathon County and the Bend deposit in Taylor County to a private company dubbed “Newco,” according to to a press release. Aquila is selling the interest in the properties for more than $ 5.8 million.
Guy Le Bel, President and CEO of the Company, said the sale would provide the Company with “significant upside exposure to an exciting new exploration-driven company with the resources to explore the Bend properties and Reef while Aquila focuses on the development of Back Forty. ”
Subject to necessary approvals, Newco will list on the TSX Venture Exchange, a Canadian exchange, the release said. No further information about Newco was given in the press release and no information was available about the company online.
No further information was available on Tuesday, David Carew, vice president of corporate development and investor relations, said in an email. More details will be available in the next 45 days, as the company moves forward with its deal.
No exploratory license applications have been submitted by a new company to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said Ben Callan, program director for the DNR. Aquila has not notified the DNR of the sale of its interests, but is under no obligation to do so.
The Bend deposit, located in the Chequamegon National Forest, is about 30 km north of Medford, according to at the DNR. It was discovered in 1986 and first drilled in the 1990s. It contains copper, gold and silver, totaling approximately 4.23 million tonnes of ore that would be accessible via an underground mine.
Aquila has an exploration license through the Federal Bureau of Land Management, according to MNR, and was reassessing the deposit prior to sale. The company also has an exploratory license through the DNR, which expires at the end of the month, Callan said. The company has not indicated that it will submit exploration plans before the license expires, he said.
The Reef deposit is located near the Dells de l’Eau Claire, outside of Wausau, according to at the DNR. The location was first explored in the 1970s and 1980s and is believed to contain gold. If the deposit is developed, it would probably be an open pit mine.
Since the end of a mining moratorium, residents close to the Reef site rejected the idea of mining there, arguing that a mine could pollute the Dells, a departmental park and natural area known for its view of the Eau Claire River and its wooded hiking trails.
Aquila explored the Bend and Reef deposits in 2011 and 2012, but since then no further action has been taken, in part due to a Wisconsin mining moratorium in place until the Legislature of the State cancels it in 2017, renewing interest in mining in the state.
Activists and organizations across the state continue to oppose further exploration or mining projects and seek to change state laws to make it more difficult to open a mine.
Ron James, who has been involved in mine action, said he doesn’t see this vision of mining changing for those who love Wisconsin’s forests, animals and clear waters. Even with a new company in charge of the Reef and Bend, he doesn’t see the fight to stop mining coming to an end.
“There will never be a good social license for a mine in Wisconsin,” he said. “We have clean water and good hunting and fishing. There will always be a poor public perception of these projects.”
A turn to Michigan
The sales will allow Aquila to put all its resources at the service of the Back Forty project, which is more advanced in terms of exploration and permits.
The project has seen several setbacks in the past year, however. In April, a Michigan Circuit Court judge ruled that a 2019 decision to approve a mining permit for Aquila should be reconsidered. The judge ordered the company to provide additional information in its permit, including documented concerns from state environmental regulators regarding groundwater modeling.
The April decision was linked to a decision rendered in January by an administrative judge, which canceled the company’s permit for the wetlands. The judge said the permit submitted by Aquila did not provide a reliable identification of the impacts on the wetlands and concluded that the application was incomplete.
The judge also said the company had not provided a full assessment of potential alternatives to the proposed plan because several of the proposed alternatives, such as an underground mine, did not include operating costs.
Permits for wetlands and mining are two of the five key permits required to start the project, in addition to an air permit, a water discharge permit and a dam safety permit. The mining permit and dam safety permits have yet to be issued to the company, according to Michigan officials. The company has already obtained an air permit and a water evacuation permit.
Licensing issues are not the first the company has faced. Due to the potential proximity of the mine to the Menominee River, activists have opposed the project from the start. The mine and the river would only be separated by an earthen dam, which could easily break down, activists say.
The mine would operate on 83 acres and its pit would be 2,000 feet by 2,500 feet. The mine’s lifespan is estimated at seven years and it would produce thousands of pounds of zinc, gold, copper, lead and silver. An on-site processing plant would crush and refine minerals and ores using flotation, separation and cyanide.
An earlier study by the University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Business predicted that the mine would create about 250 jobs, $ 20 million in new tax revenue for federal, state and local governments, and provide $ 16.5 million. in royalties to the State of Michigan. The study was subscribed by the company.