Senator Davis, Representative Dunphy, and members of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry:
My name is Nick Bennett, and I am the Staff Scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I reside in Hallowell. I am testifying in support of LD 159 as amended.
Metal mining in sulfide ores is one of the most dangerous industrial activities on earth. Digging up these ores and exposing them to air and water causes a chemical reaction that forms sulfuric acid. The acid itself can kill fish and other wildlife, and it also leaches toxic heavy metals (such as lead, mercury, and arsenic) from the ore. These metals can also harm the environment and human health.
Mining in sulfide ores is a serious threat to Maine’s clean water, wildlife, and fisheries. Maine people depend on clean water to support critical economic engines for our state: tourism, fishing, hunting, guiding, paddling, and many other activities. Wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing combined are worth about $1.4 billion annually. Fishing alone is worth more than $300 million per year. Maine lakes support about 52,000 jobs with an economic impact of $3.5 billion annually. Our iconic public reserved lands provide unparalleled opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and paddling. Our wildlife management areas also support a similarly diverse suite of activities.
LD 159 as amended would protect state lands, which would include Public Reserved Lands and wildlife management areas —as well as the bottoms of lakes, tidal rivers, and coastal waters — from sulfide mining. These lands have better, more sustainable, and more lucrative uses that can support Maine’s economy for the very long term if we take care of them. Sulfide mines provides very short term economic gains, and their waste lasts forever. Maine’s iconic state lands are not the right place for sulfide mining.
NRCM also asks the Committee to make one small change to LD159 as amended, which is to remove the word “massive” from the title. There are sulfide deposits in Maine that are not “massive sulfide deposits”, which is a term of art that applies to certain deposits of volcanic origin regardless of their size.
We urge the Committee to vote Ought to Pass as Amended on LD 159.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I would be happy to take any questions.