LePage Signs Bill Revising Mining Restrictions In Maine 

Tuesday, Governor Lepage signed into a law a bill that allows Maine’s mining regulations to be revised, paving the way for JD Irving Company to mine for gold, copper and other metals on Bald Mountain in Arrostook County.The bill’s supporters say that could mean hundreds of jobs in that area. “When we talk about good jobs we’re always talking about southern Maine, and I’m particularly interested in seeing all 16 counties in the state of Maine become prosperous,” LePage said at a State House ceremony.The bill’s sponsor, Eagle Lake Democrat John Martin, says this bill could put as many as 600 Mainers to work soon, as testing of the site will begin almost immediately. “In a warehouse in Presque Isle there is the core of all the test pits that were done 20 years ago,” Martin said. “There is a tremendous amount of material that can be analyzed now to determine exactly the content, the location, and the value, of the mineral that’s there.”Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho said the DEP and LURC currently have rules on the books for mining in Maine. It’s those rules that are to be revamped under the new legislation. “Those particular rules and that framework will stay in place until such time as they are actually amended,” Aho said.The legislation succeeded despite a mountain of opposition from environmental groups who voiced their displeasure at the two public hearings held on the bill. “I think the bill is very complicated,” Nick Bennett, of the Natural Resources Council, told lawmakers last month. “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.”Martin dismisses the notion that the new bill puts groundwater at risk. “Water under this bill will be treated to drinkable water,” Martin said Tuesday. “So any discharge of water will be protected and that’s absolutely critical. Keeping in mind I happen to own a sporting camp operation which is only 6 1/2 miles from that location. So I have no desire to ruin the water on the lake where my sporting camps are.”The proposed changes to those rules are scheduled to be presented to lawmakers in 2014.