Maine lawmakers have rejected two attempts by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to make mining rules less restrictive.
Environmentalists, lawmakers, and Aroostook County residents had a lot to say about it at a public hearing in Augusta Monday.
“Legislation banning mining altogether will create uncertainty for other resource extraction industries in the state. If you take gravel from an area with a massive sulfide deposit, how long before that’s banned too?” asked Melanie Loyzim, Deputy Commissioner for Maine’s D.E.P.
Supporters of rewriting Maine’s mining rules say that companies like J.D. Irving would bring hundreds of jobs to Aroostook County.
As the population in the county continues to decrease, they say mining of Maine’s copper, zinc, gold, and silver deposits would be a big economic boost.
“Right now it’s being proposed by J.D. Irving in Aroostook county and we have a lot of trust lands. We’re very concerned about the environment and the work that both of our tribes have done over the past 30 years- (it) will be devastating to our community,” said Brenda Commander, Tribal Chief, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.
Tribal Chiefs from the Aroostook Band of Micmacs and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians were among the many in opposition of metallic mineral exploration.
Shelly Mountain, of Mapleton, also owns a camp near Bald Mountain, which is a proposed mining site.
“If there was any disaster, which there are no mines anywhere that do not cause contamination- so if there was contamination, my property on Portage Lake would be worthless,” said Mountain.
Seven proposals were discussed including acts to establish a mining advisory panel and to repeal the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act altogether.
There’s also proposed legislation to ban mining on public and protected lands and prohibit placement of certain mining operations.
“LD820 would require the DEP to develop rules to strictly limit groundwater pollution in areas of ore removal rather than allowing unlimited pollution in mining areas as the 2012 law does,” said Sen. Brownie Carson, (d), the bill’s sponsor.
Lawmakers will continue to review the bills over the coming weeks.