January 23, 2020
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Maine lawmakers buck LePage, pass mineral mining rules after years of debate

Gabor Degre | BDN file
Gabor Degre | BDN file
One of the waste rock piles at the former Callahan Mine Corp. site in Brooksville.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill to regulate large-scale mining in Maine will go into law over the objections of Gov. Paul LePage following the Legislature’s rejection of his veto.

The House of Representatives settled the matter Wednesday afternoon in a convincing 122-21 vote in favor of the bill and against LePage’s veto. Earlier in the day, the Senate voted unanimously to override the veto.

This development effectively ends what amounts to years of debate over metallic mineral mining in Maine and the state’s struggle to implement rules that adhere to laws enacted by the Legislature.

The bill, LD 820, garnered bipartisan consensus earlier this year at the legislative committee level after provisions were added that ban open pit mining and outlaw wastewater impoundments at mining sites. At the core of opposition to past attempts were that the measures didn’t go far enough to protect Maine’s environment or require enough financial assurances from mine operators that they can clean up when mining operations cease. On that basis, the Legislature has twice rejected rules developed by the Department of Environmental Protection.

LePage wrote in his veto letter that the bill effectively makes mining impossible.

“This bill will deter any company from mining in Maine, and it will discourage exploration of our mineral deposits because this bill would make them undevelopable,” wrote the governor. “This bill takes away the opportunity for innovative companies to select safe and cost-effective methods to mine and it perpetuates the hypocritical, not-in-my-backyard attitude that keeps Maine at a competitive disadvantage.”

Sen. Everett Carson, D-Harpswell, the former director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine who sponsored the bill, said in a written statement that the bill strikes a balance.

“The health and wellbeing of Mainers will always come before the profits of mining companies,” he said in a written statement.

The bill will become law 90 days after adjournment of this year’s legislative session.


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