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 244.
Metal mining, especially in sulfide ores, is one of the most dangerous industrial activities on earth. Digging up sulfide ores, which are common in Maine, 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.
Metal mining 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 244 would clarify that metal mining would “substantially alter” designated lands (see Title 12, Section 598-A). This would require that metal mining on designated lands only proceed after approval by two-thirds of the Legislature as described in Article IX, Section 23 of the Maine State Constitution. This makes good sense. Our designated lands—including Public Reserved Lands and wildlife management areas— 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. Mines provide very short term economic gains, and their waste lasts forever. Maine’s iconic designated lands are not the right place for mining.
We urge the Committee to vote Ought to Pass on LD 244.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I would be happy to take any questions.