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

Canadian mining company Wolfden has 30 days to answer a long list of questions regarding its rezoning application to mine a 374-acre parcel near Katahdin.  

Questions related to the number of employees, blasting, rock crushing, spray irrigation and snowmaking, underground facilities, traffic, development plan and storm water and mine water management must be clarified, Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission said Friday. 

“Commission staff have begun a detailed review of the application and have identified several areas where additional information is needed to complete our review,” LUPC Senior Planner Tim Carr said. 

This is Wolfden’s second stab at garnering rezoning approval for the Pickett Mountain Project from the LUPC. Following a 2021 rebuke of its initial application, Wolfden withdrew and then resubmitted it in January.  

This is the first test of Maine’s tough new mining law, viewed as one of the nation’s most stringent. 

The rezoning application is a first step in a multi-agency approval process. The LUPC must hold a public hearing prior to approval, according to Maine law. If the commission approves a revised application, Wolfden would then need to obtain a mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Wolfden’s 2020 application to rezone the Pickett Mountain Project area contained a persistent pattern of inconsistencies, errors and omissions, LUPC planners said at the time. The commission again found inconsistencies, omissions and missing information in the second application filed in January.

“This looks a lot like Wolfden’s previous application. It is filled with errors and lacks the data to prove the wastewater will not harm the high water quality in the area,” said Nick Bennett, staff scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine in Augusta.  

Wolfden executives have been trying to garner local approval in support of their new application, but some area town officials do not believe the mining company has the resources or ability to safely tackle the project. 

In Patten, the Planning Board recently pushed back on a Wolfden-proposed town ordinance in favor of the mine. Instead, the Select Board put a resolution to a town vote. 

“Under the guise of transparency, they have made veiled promises of benefits to all the area towns — especially financial to the town governments — that have the feel of bribery,” Blum said Sunday. “It is clear now that they were soliciting community support to enhance their application and perhaps influence their investors.”

The current application in front of LUPC lists various incongruous figures for the numbers of jobs and employees, and the commission is seeking clarification, according to a letter sent from the LUPC’s Carr to Wolfden Vice President of Project Development Jeremy Ouellette. 

“This shows once again that Wolfden can’t even get simple numbers correct,” Bennett said. “The LUPC is correct to call out Wolfden to provide much more information on how this project will affect the environmental resources.”

The project description failed to include and describe several underground facilities — a maintenance shop, an equipment wash bay, water transfer stations and holding tanks for mine process water, and communication and control systems — that were listed in Wolfden’s Preliminary Economic Assessment according to Carr’s letter. 

The LUPC has asked for clarification and detailed schematics for the additional underground facilities. It is also seeking clarification on if and where ore crushing and milling would take place. 

Additionally, the LUPC has asked for clarification on setback, traffic and blasting inconsistencies in the application. 

“Clarify the number of trips expected per day and their breakdown into categories,” Carr wrote, referring to various traffic projections of 254 daily trips, plus 110 for ore hauling – and in another location of the application, 236 daily trips, with an expected 110 additional trips. Public comments on the Wolfden application are welcome until the close of the record after the public hearing on the matter. The LUPC encourages those interested to submit written comments by email to Wolfdenrezoning.LUPC@maine.gov. Written comments can be sent to the Maine Land Use Planning Commission, Attention: Tim Carr, 22 State House Station, 18 Elkins Lane, Augusta, ME 04333-0022.

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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...