New mining regulations in Maine could pave way for Bald Mountain Mine
Environmental groups are opposing proposed mining regulations in Maine that could help pave the way for the restart of the Bald Mountain Mine in Aroostook County.
The groups claim the regulations, drafted by the Maine environmental department, will weaken the land and water protections on the books and won't protect the environment from sulfuric acid and other toxins, The Associated Press reported.
Supporters of the new regulations said a restart of the Bald Mountain Mine (featured in Mining Engineering, Dec. 2012) will bring jobs and opportunities to the struggling northern Maine economy.
Lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 calling for the overhaul the two-decade-old state mining regulations. The current regulations have been described as “de-facto ban on mining,” said Thomas Doyle, an attorney representing Aroostook Resources, Inc.
Metallic mining has been dormant in Maine for several decades, but J.D. Irving Ltd., the owner of Bald Mountain, has begun considering the possibility of mining on the land and pushed to write new regulations more favorable to the industry. The company says mining Bald Mountain could bring as many as 700 jobs to the region.
Environmental advocates are urging the board to strengthen the proposed rules to limit the areas where ground water can be contaminated. They also want to require companies to pay 100 percent of the assurances for cleanup costs up front — instead of 50 percent, as is being proposed — to ensure that taxpayers are not left footing the bill.
The Department of Environmental Protection says while it's open to suggestions for further strengthening the proposal, it believes the rules are based on science and meet the requirements set by law.
“In each and every case, we worked to base our proposal on the best available science and craft a proposal that is protective of the environment to the maximum extent possible,” Jeff Crawford, rule-making coordinator for the department, told the board.
The rules will likely spur a heated battle in the Legislature as lawmakers are given final approval. The department is expected to adopt the rules by January and will then send them to the Democratic-controlled State.
Even then, any mining operations are likely far off in Maine. J.D. Irving says it still doesn't know if mining is feasible at Bald Mountain, but any operation probably wouldn't happen for at least five years.