In 2012, JD Irving (a large conglomerate active in many industries and Maine’s largest landowner) pushed a bill through the Maine Legislature to weaken mining pollution regulations in Maine.
In 2014, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a draft of new mining rules based on this faulty law. However, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee quickly came to the conclusion that a strong majority of the Legislature opposed the proposed metallic mineral mining rules drafted by the DEP. The Committee voted along party lines and a strong majority of the full Legislature rejected the rules. The Governor then vetoed the bill rejecting the bad rules.
In 2015, the DEP resubmitted the same rules. Maine Audubon had serious concerns that the rules as proposed did not provide sufficient safeguards to minimize the potential adverse impacts of this type of mining in Maine.
In May 2015, by an 8-5 vote, the majority of the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee voted in favor of amended rules (LD 750), which still would not have made DEP’s proposed mining rules protective enough. It didn’t protect Maine’s clean water from mining pollution or ensure Maine taxpayers won’t pay for the messes mining companies leave behind.
The DEP has recently revised the rules and scheduled a public hearing to hear public comment on the rules. While there are some improvements, the rules are not strong enough.
How would these dangerously weak rules affect Maine’s wildlife and habitat?
Protecting Maine from metallic mining pollution will help conserve our natural heritage and ensure that Maine people do not end up paying cleanup costs. Metallic mineral mining poses serious risks to Maine.
In 2012, the Maine Legislature passed a bill that rolled back Maine’s mineral mining law. The mining industry has an extremely poor track record of polluting the environment and leaving taxpayers with the costs of clean up. Even out West, where it rains far less than in Maine, heavy metals from mines have contaminated the headwater streams of 40% of all watersheds.*
Proponents of the 2015 rules are considering mining Bald Mountain, in central Aroostook County. Should open-pit mining occur in that location, the impacts could be dramatic – the process of open-pit mining leaves large toxic acid ponds which could potentially drain through ground and surface waters into the Fish River and the Fish River Chain of Lakes, which provide some of the best brook trout fishing in the country. The acidity threatens water quality and aquatic life, as well as the larger wildlife habitat in the area.Open-pit mining in Maine could result in arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals contaminating our lakes, rivers, streams and soils. Maine Audubon is concerned about potential adverse impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Although most of the discussion of open-pit mining in Maine has focused on Bald Mountain, Maine has significant metallic mineral deposits located throughout the state that mining companies could extract, including the Western Foothills, the Moosehead Lake area and Cobscook Bay. Please see the Maine Geological Survey’s map. The yellow areas on the map show volcanic and sedimentary rock deposits that are candidates for mining.
More Information »Maine Mining Watch is a collaborative project of Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Audubon and Maine Conservation Alliance.