If you think that the proposed metal mine in Penobscot County that has been in the news lately doesn’t matter to us here in western Maine, think again. The Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) is about to rule on whether an area on Pickett Mountain should be rezoned to allow mining by Wolfden Resources, a Canadian mining company. Along with other issues, Wolfden has no experience operating a mine and their finances are unsure. Allowing such a company to mine in Maine could set a precedent that would allow other similar mining companies here. To further complicate the situation, the zinc mine they are proposing is in a massive sulfide deposit. The sulfides in the ore form sulfuric acid when it gets wet causing highly toxic heavy metals, arsenic, antimony, etc. to be released as acid mine drainage. Over the life of this project, an estimated 3 million tons of acid ore deposit will be excavated and piled in outdoor containment areas until it is processed. (After processing, the mine tailings (still toxic) will eventually be buried and capped over.) Can Wolfden be depended on to properly handle all of that?
Maine averages over 40 inches of rain a year and consequently, we have a lot of waterways, ponds, and lakes. In 2023, over 71” were reported for Farmington! Some storms dumped over 5 inches of rain in only a few hours. How likely is it that containment areas storing acid ore could handle such large volumes of water without failing and overflowing?
There are other potential metal mine sites across Maine that would likely also have acid ore. (Of note: gem and lithium mining are NOT in acid ore and so are not included in this.) Why would we want to put our environment at risk just so foreign owned mining companies can set up here and make a lot of money? The environmental risks from an acid ore mine lasts for many decades long after the mine has closed and the mining company has left town. Those environmental risks are even greater in a wet climate like Maine’s. Will safeguards hold up against Father Time and exposure to our endless water? Hopefully, the LUPC will not approve the rezoning for the Pickett Mountain project. Acid ore mines don’t belong in Maine.
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