Maine's Mining Future in Doubt

October 18, 2013

 

On Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, ME over 100 people gathered to discuss a bid by the state's largest landholder, Canadian timer company JD Irving, Ltd., to re-launch the state's mining industry in Aroostook County. JD Irving, Ltd. is interested in exploring a 500-acre site it owns on Bald Mountain which it believes holds substantial deposits of copper and zinc.

 

But in attendance were many who oppose mining in the state due to environmental concerns. Maine is known for its fervent protection of its lands and even 40 years after the closure of the Callahan Mine in Brooksville the site remains severely polluted. Those opposed to new mining projects in the state are concerned that even with new legislation designed to protect groundwater and ensure mining companies have enough money set aside to pay for clean up if necessary.

 

JD Irving, Ltd. owns approximately 1.2 million acres in Maine and is looking to begin mining projects in the near future. The company says their mining operations will create 700 new jobs and generate more than $100 million in state and local tax revenues.

 

Still, member of the state legislature are not convinced mining companies understand the important of environmental protection in Maine.

 

"Our goal was never to prohibit mining in Maine but to ensure that we do not destroy what makes Maine great," Rep. Janice Cooper told the Bangor Daily News. "The problem with making mistakes in mining is that there are no do-over's." It has been decades since metallic mineral mining has been done in Maine and the reason is due to the damage done to areas that still have not fully recovered. The Callahan Mine is just one example of a mining project that permanently scarred Maine's once pristine landscape.

 

Even thought the tax revenue is very enticing, many opponents to mining projects consider it small consolation to damage done by companies that only reserve money for environmental clean ups if the site is financially successful.