BANGOR, Maine — Speaker after speaker urged the Maine Land Use Planning Commission to deny Wolfden’s rezoning application for the Pickett Mountain Project during the last of four public hearings Monday night in Bangor.
During the final LUPC public hearing, there was a nearly unanimous opposition — 50 to 6 — to the Canadian junior mining company’s rezoning request for a 374-acre parcel located near Katahdin and Baxter State Park for a proposed metallic mineral mine. Mainers of all ages from many cities and towns called on LUPC members to follow the state’s guidelines when making their decision and not be blinded by promises of an economic boon to the region.
“This is not the answer to youth flight,” said Sasha Spencer. “LUPC, it is clear you stand as the lock on the floodgates holding back a wave of predatory transnational entities Kinross, Altius, all chomping at the bit to suck the life out of these woods and waters for cash in their investors pockets.”
Wolfden, must garner Maine LUPC support to rezone the site currently zoned for small cabins. Approval opens the door for Wolfden to apply for a state mining permit and would test Maine’s strict mining laws.
As part of the investigative process, prior to making a rezoning decision, the LUPC held three days and evenings of technical and public hearings last week in Millinocket. The Bangor hearing date was added in September following a formal request by 54 Maine legislators.
In a letter sent to the LUPC, the legislators said the previous hearing schedule was discriminatory and posed transportation and financial burdens on Mainers living two and three hours away from Millinocket.
“It is an issue of statewide importance. Folks have a lot to say on the issue and we want to make sure that they can reach the meeting,” said Senate Chairwoman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough.
During the Bangor hearing, those opposed to the Wolfden zinc mine cited the threat of irreparable damage to the region’s pristine waters, aquatic habitat, Wabanaki protected lands and waters and Wolfden’s lack of financing, mining experience and the company officers’ negative experience with other mining companies.
This is Wolfden’s second application for LUPC rezoning approval for the Pickett Mountain Project. They withdrew the first after LUPC investigators cited multiple missed deadlines, errors and inconsistencies.
The public hearings give LUPC investigators evidence relevant to Wolfden’s rezoning application and offer the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed mining project. The hearings are just one source of information related to the review process, according to the LUPC.
Last year, Pembroke residents rejected Wolfden’s exploratory mining attempts and voted 129-48 to ban industrial-scale metallic mineral mining and exploration in their town. On Monday night, several Pembroke residents shared details of their negative experience with Wolfden.
During the Millinocket public hearings, Mainers opposed the mine, citing irreparable damage to the region’s water, lands and aquatic life. Those in favor said the region needs the jobs Wolfden has promised.
Speakers at the Bangor hearing said the promise of jobs is not worth the risk to the state.
Former Maine State Sen. Brownie Carson, lead sponsor of LD 820, an act to protect Maine’s clean waters from mining pollution, said that the 2017 mining law set protective standards based on best industry practices.
Any company mining in Maine must have a clear track record of responsible mining and strong finances to cover the full cost of monitoring, closure, treatment, remediation and a possible catastrophic failure, Carson said.
“In terms of a track record, Wolfden has none,” he said. “In terms of finances the company has virtually none with $2.1 million on its balance sheet. Despite having no track record and very little money, Wolfden CEO testified nobody has built a mine to this standard anywhere in the world, but we will.”
The core question for the commission is whether this claim is believable, Carson said.
“Can this tiny company accomplish something that no other company has?” he asked.
Prior to the Monday night Bangor hearing, the Natural Resources Council of Maine held a rally in opposition to the proposed Wolfden mine immediately before the hearing outside the Cross Insurance building on Main Street.
Written public comment can be submitted to the LUPC until Nov. 2.