A view of Pickett Mountain and Pickett Mountain Pond, which could serve as the site of a new minerals mine by Canadian mining company Wolfden Resources. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission

PATTEN, Maine – A Canadian mining company has submitted its second rezoning application for a precious metals mine near Mt. Chase.

Wolfden Resources filed for a permit Wednesday to rezone 374 acres for a mining project planned at Pickett Mountain, according to the Maine Land Use Planning Commission.

The company withdrew a rezoning application in October 2021, which commission members said contained many errors and inconsistencies. Wolfden promised to bring 300 or more jobs to a rural area where employment is scarce, but the company has battled environmentalists and residents who worry its wastewater treatment won’t protect wildlife and fisheries. The project is the first real test of Maine’s strict mining law.

“Wolfden has proven time and again that it can’t be trusted,” Nick Bennett, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in a statement. “We will review the details of its petition, but there is little doubt that a mine at Pickett Mountain would forever damage the clean water and rich natural resources that support the region’s vibrant outdoor recreation economy.”

The mountain is close to Aroostook County and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

The latest application asks to change zoning from a General Management Subdistrict to a Planned Development Subdistrict.

Members of the Houlton Band of Maliseets and Penobscot Nation have spoken out against the mine proposal, saying its wastewater could damage waters important to their cultures.

“The waters and woods of the northern Katahdin region are no place for a mine,” Patten resident MaryAlice Mowry said in a news release from NRCM. “Wolfden Resources is giving us empty promises, ignoring concerns and creating divisions across our region. No matter how much anyone wants to believe that a mine is the ticket to our future, it is not true.”

In late 2022, Wolfden visited surrounding towns to garner public support for the project. The company invested nearly $15 million to research the impact of soil and water quality, fisheries and wildlife, Jeremy Ouelette, Wolfden’s vice president of project development said at an August 2022 meeting in Patten.

The towns of Stacyville and Hersey voted in support of Wolfden, although the company does not need local approval.

Environmentalists expressed concerns about the mine’s impact on the surrounding towns, wildlife and fisheries.

The proposed site is near Pleasant Lake, Mud Lake, and Grass Pond, all State Heritage Fish Waters. It is also in the headwaters of the West Branch of the Mattawamkeag River, which is habitat for brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon, the National Resources Council of Maine said. 

The rezoning application is a first step in a multi-agency approval process. The Land Use Planning Commission must hold a public hearing prior to approval, according to Maine law.

If approved by the Land Use Planning Commission, Wolfden would then need to obtain a mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Patten is the closest town to the property, and the sulfide deposit is about three miles off the highway. There would be year-round access to the project through logging roads, Wolfden said.

The Pickett Mountain sulfide deposit, formerly known as the Mt. Chase deposit, was first discovered in 1979 by Getty Mining Co., a division of Getty Oil, according to Wolfden.

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Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...