Public Weighs In On Aroostook County Mining Bill
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would overhaul Maine’s mining regulations.Representative John Martin of Eagle Lake introduced the bill after geological studies showed significant amounts of gold, silver and other metals in Bald Mountain, located in job starved Aroostook County.The bill updates the mining laws that Martin says were last revised four decades ago. It would pave the way for J-D Irving Company to mine Bald Mountain. The company says the project could produce about 700 jobs and more than $100 million in taxable income for Aroostook County.Opponents are concerned about the potential environmental impact. Nick Bennet of the Natural Resources Council of Maine says it’s too late in the session to submit a bill this big, and he’s afraid it could lead to significant ground water pollution. “I think the bill is very complicated,” Bennett said Friday at the public hearing. “It’s almost 20 pages long and so it’s a difficult bill to work with. Again I think the big provision can be boiled down to this allows a lot more contamination of groundwater which we think is a big problem.”Representative Martin, and a large contingent of the bill’s supporters, mostly residents who would be directly affected, dismiss the pollution argument. “Well keep in mind there are people who would have us eat grass all year and not have a job,” Martin said. “That’s not the issue here. The issue is we can do both as long as we protect the environment.”Martin says there’s plenty of time for lawmakers to properly review the bill. Martin, also a member of the Appropriations Committee which is working to pass two budgets before the session ends, says lawmakers will be here for another 2-3 weeks.