Employees contracted by the Ontario-based Wolfden Resources Corp. prepare to restart the drill while working near Pickett Mountain north of Patten in this 2018 file photo. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

A Canadian firm that is seeking a zoning change for a controversial proposed mining operation in northern Maine plans to conduct test surveys at another idled mining site in Washington County.

Wolfden Resources Corp., based in Ontario, is exploring the possibility of mining for silver at the closed Big Hill mine in Pembroke, off Route 214. The company said drilling and ground surveys at the site, which it calls “Big Silver,” could start next month, depending on how geophysical surveys progress at similar prospective sites across the border in New Brunswick.

“Drilling may commence on both projects in September depending on border logistics and contractor availability,” the company said recently.

Wolfden also is seeking approval from the state’s Land Use Planning Commission to rezone 528 acres it owns around Pickett Mountain, near Mount Chase in northern Penobscot County, so that it can develop a minerals mine — a proposal that is opposed by Natural Resources Council of Maine and has sparked concerns about potential water pollution from Native American tribes in Maine. If LUPC approves the zoning change, that proposal will go to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which would decide whether to issue a mining permit.

The Pembroke site was used as a surface mine for lead in the early 1900s, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. It later was owned by Scintilore Explorations, which did exploratory drilling at the site in the early 1980s after a rise in silver prices, and then was owned by Golden Hope Mines until 2011, according to the Quoddy Tides newspaper.

David Madore, spokesperson for Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said Wolfden has submitted a work plan for exploratory drilling and surveys at the Pembroke site and does not need a permit from the state agency as long as none of the test pits or trenches have surface opening areas of more than 300 square feet. Wolfden would have to get advanced exploration permits from the department to conduct more intensive ground surveys, but could remove no more than 10,000 tons of mine waste, he said.

Beyond that Wolfden would have to apply to DEP for a full-scale mining permit and, as part of that, would have to submit two years worth of data about relevant local water quality, among other things, Madore said.

In an online video interview in February with Crux Investor, Little said he hopes to provide power companies with metals that Wolfden mines in Maine. He said the main target in Pembroke would be silver, but there could be gold there, too. Zinc, copper and nickel are among other metals the company is looking for at Pickett Mountain and in Canada, he said.

“It could be one of the largest silver deposits in North America,” Little said. “The only battery metal we don’t have is lithium, really.”

Attempts Thursday to contact Little and town officials in Pembroke about the project were unsuccessful.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....