Update of state mining laws could bring up to 300 jobs to Aroostook County

Posted March 12, 2012, at 4:46 p.m.
Last modified March 12, 2012, at 6:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — An Aroostook County representative has submitted legislation that he said Monday would clarify the state’s mining laws while also revitalizing the area’s economy with scores of new jobs.

Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, submitted LD 1853, An Act To Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Mining in Maine, late last week. It seeks to update Maine’s mining extraction laws and its co-sponsors include Sen. Roger Sherman, R-Houlton, and Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

Martin said the move was prompted by the increasing price of minerals and focuses specifically on Bald Mountain, located in Township 12 Range 8 northwest of Ashland and Portage. Martin said that the potential exists for mining gold, silver, copper and zinc there.

“I focused specifically on Bald Mountain because there has been testing for minerals there,” he said Monday.

The representative said Monday that he helped enhance the state’s mining laws and rules in 1991 as a result of potential mineral deposits discovered at Bald Mountain. Those rules made sense at the time, Martin said, but a lot has changed since then.

“We have done a lot to strengthen our environmental protection laws,” he said. “Mining technology also has advanced a lot in 20 years. The laws we have in place now are outdated.”

Martin’s latest bill would create sensible, environmentally sound mining regulations that would encourage responsible mining activities, he said. The state Department of Environmental Protection would be responsible for permitting and regulating mining operations under LD 1853.

According to Martin, recent reports indicate that mining development at Bald Mountain could create up to 300 direct, well-paying jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs.

“There would be a ripple effect from those 300 jobs,” he said Monday. “There would be more business for truck drivers and gas stations and restaurants. Plus, there would be an excise tax on the minerals that come out of there.”

The result would be more than $600 million in employment income and more than $120 million in state and local taxes, according to Martin.

“That would have a huge impact on Aroostook County,” he said. “And that is what we need. We need to create jobs that pay well.”

Martin said he kept the environment in mind when drafting the bill so that streams, lakes, natural habitats and other resources around Bald Mountain would not be harmed.

He said that the legislation provides for strict protections of waterways as well as land near and around mining activities. The bill also allows for public comment on mining proposals and vigorous review by state agencies.

Martin said that he has not yet heard of any resistance to the bill.

The bill was referred by the Senate to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Monday. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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