Patten Planning Board Chairman Ron Blum talks to the board about a Wolfden ordinance during a February planning meeting. Credit: (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli / BDN

PATTEN, Maine — Patten officials have decided to put a resolution approving a mining project to a town vote.

For months, Wolfden coaxed area towns to endorse its 374-acre mining project on Pickett Mountain by adopting town ordinances in favor of the mine. When Patten pushed back on the ordinance, the company devised a shorter resolution favoring the project. 

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

At issue is the resolution’s language regarding where the company’s ore processing facility and toxic tailings storage will be located, and Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulations about the mining impacts on the town. Without time for information sessions, voters will not have accurate facts to make an informed decision prior to voting later this year, some town officials said. 

“We have been discussing Wolfden for years. It’s getting drawn out,” Patten Selectboard Chairman Cody Brackett said. “The best thing is to give everyone a chance to discuss it and vote.”

The resolution misrepresents reality in several passages, Planning Board Chairman Ron Blum said. 

Selectmen asked the planning board to review and comment on Wolfden’s resolution last month.  During the planning board’s discussion, Blum said there is nothing in the resolution that benefits Patten and it does not address things like housing demands and increased traffic. 

Additionally, Blum pushed for an information and discussion session with voters prior to voting on another day. Selectwoman Rae Bates also said the public needed time following a discussion to process the information and vote at a later date.

Brackett said there have already been several public information sessions with Wolfden. And the select board voted last week in favor of holding a public hearing with no formal information presentations, followed by a vote on the same day. Bates dissented.

“I am disappointed that they would use the incorrect and skewed version of the issue for a community response, rather than an accurate description,” Blum said. 

The Wolfden resolution, if adopted by town voters, confirms that Wolfden intends to locate associated mining facilities — a concentrator plant, water treatment plant, dry stack tailings — in a community near the mine, but not Patten.

Blum pointed out that the claim that the facilities will not be located in Patten is not binding.

“Wolfden’s reapplication to the Land Use Planning Commission indicates they have made no determination where the various facilities may be located,” he said.

The Wolfden resolution also states that the Department of Environmental Protection regulates the local environmental impact of associated facilities like the toxic processing and tailings facilities; and that DEP regulations address all the local impacts.

Blum said that is incorrect because DEP regulations do not address issues such as increased road use and wear, traffic, noise, or increased demands for housing.

“The Wolfden LUPC reapplication indicates over 350 trips by ore trucks and personal vehicles a day, presumably traveling on Patten’s Main Street,” Blum said. 

Just last week, the LUPC asked Wolfden to address similar issues in their rezoning application. 

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, the LUPC said on Friday. 

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

Wolfden should concentrate on getting LUPC approval for the mine, Selectwoman Bates said, adding she is not supportive of mining in general.

“Asking towns for mining ordinances or resolutions in support of mining is misplaced, in my mind,” she said. “After Wolfden has obtained LUPC approval for mining and they have DEP approval, Patten can address what restrictions we might feel we need.”

Correction: The story has been updated to clarify Pickett Mountain’s location.

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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...