Are Maine’s mining laws outdated?
The battle lines are being drawn between the state’s largest landowner and environmentalists over a bill before state lawmakers that could allow J.D. Irving to start a mining operation on land it owns in Aroostook County.
Bald Mountain sits on land owned by JD Irving in Aroostook County northwest of Ashland. Anthony Hourihan, is JD Irving’s director of land development. And he’s not mincing his words when he says that mountain could be a gold mine for the company and Aroostook County.
“Bald mountain has a deposit that was discovered back in the 70’s of gold, copper, silver, and zinc,” explains Hourihan, “And what we’re proposing is to undertake a potential project on the site that would create 300 direct jobs and another 400 indirect jobs.”
But to make that venture feasible JD Irving is asking state lawmakers to make some changes to current regulations.
LD 1853 would do that–amending mining laws drafted back in 1991.
Hourihan says that under the legislation “there will be no release of pollutants off the mining area whether it is surface water or ground water but there needs to be alternative means to dealing with groundwater on the site.”
But it’s that groundwater on site that has environmentalists concerned.
[N]ick Bennett, a scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine says, “In Maine, groundwater typically flows very quickly into rivers lakes and streams so if you pollute a very large area of groundwater which as we read this bill it would allow you’re obviously going to pollute rivers streams and lakes and that’s not good.”
Bennett is worried about impact to the regions prized brook trout fisheries if acid runoff created from mining activity gets into groundwater and makes it off site and into the fish river and it’s tributaries.
There is a public hearing on the bill before the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Friday at 1:00 PM in Room 216 of the Cross Office Building.