REPEAL OF MAINE’S MINING STATUE UP FOR ACTION LATER THIS MONTH

Something astonishing is happening in the Maine legislature.  On April 29th at 9:00 AM , LD1059, a bill ,  aptly titled “An Act To Protect Maine’s Environment and Natural Resources Jeopardized by Mining”  will almost certainly result in repeal of Maine’s 2012 Mining Statute.  It  will come before the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at a  public hearing by the end of this month..  LD1059, written and sponsored by Chipman  and  6 members of the Joint Standing  Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources  (Gatwick, Harlow,Chipman, Cooper, McGowan and Grant)was referred to Committee by motion of co-chair  Boyle. Tom Saviello ,an eager supporter of the mining statute and still a member of the Committee, is not a co-sponsor nor are any of the other Republican members.

LD1059 will correct a deeply flawed and badly informed decision the Committee made last year in sending this lobbyist written  metal mining statute to the floor for a vote.

PL2011 C.653 is recklessly irresponsible statute with the potential to expose Maine to virtually limitless unfunded public liability and environmental harm. Repeal will give this Committee and other Committees of relevant jurisdiction in the legislature a chance to properly consider, in partnership with Mainers and global mining experts what constitutes sound public policy for metallic mining. We need to govern metallic mining in a manner that will see us forward and weather us against the changing winds of political administrations and politics.  The public financial and environmental risks of metallic mining are far too consequential , fiscally and environmentally  to be at the mercy of politics.  The repeal of our mining statute is not a political act.  It is an act that takes us in the direction of possibly building a sound well informed policy framework for metallic mining in Maine.

Of more immediate importance, timely enactment of LD1059 will literally pulls us back from the brink of possible disaster at Bald Mountain if JD Irving is allowed to proceed with advanced explorations there under DEP’s recklessly irresponsible new rules just approved in house at DEP by Commissioner Aho and now awaiting approval in the office of Maine Attorney General,  Janet Mills.  JD Irving had previously announced plans to begin advanced explorations there as early as this June.

I gather it is customary for lobbyists and corporate interests to use the rush and confusion of end of session to drag surprise trojan horses into the legislature.  This particular statute came in as a bill with bipartisan  support on behalf of JD Irvings interest in mining at Bald Mountain.  To mention the democrat sponsor and the back story on that would lead away from what matters most to Maine: sound  governance and wise policy informed by science and experience for managing the enormous  public fiscal and environmental risks of modern metallic mining..

Pierce Atwood and mining interests  falsely lead the Committee to believe that new technology had now made  modern metallic  mining  safe and that needed jobs and economic  vitality would  be created  in a part of Maine that has suffered long years of economic hardship.  There was no opportunity for public comment or public  scrutiny.  It was done and passed in the blink of an eye. I have no doubt that when the bill left committee last year every member that voted for it believed they were doing right.  Believed they would create needed local jobs. Believed this was good for Maine.  Believed it really is possible with “modern technology” to do metallic mining with absolutely no risk to the environment and believed the framework they approved would accomplish all that.  The Natural Resources Committee now realizes those were false beliefs.

The bill that was passed last year in fact completely deregulates metallic mining, completely removes and disempowers all oversight.  It essentially says “leave it to the experts..they’ll  give us  reliable  self inspection reports, keep us informed and do all the rights tests and we can trust that nothing bad will happen. “ It is completely out of line with a growing consensus  among mining experts world wide  on the conditions that constitute a” viable mine” and on  the relationship between the private sector and government required to actually undertake a metallic mining operation especially in sulfide ores as we have at Bald Mountain and other likely mining sites.

By “viable mine” of course I mean in the larger sense of public costs and public risks.  I mean  a workable balance between private and public interests.  Viable to a mining company means an automatic tripling of value to be able to offer a permitted mine for sale that is in “advanced exploration” under “relaxed and friendly oversight”.  Viable to a mining company means extracting as much metal at as much profit as possible as soon as possible and being out of the picture out of the chain of responsibility when the damage starts to observably and measurably unfold years later.  In Blue Hill, decades after it closed, we still have no mitigation plan for the Callahan mine, no means of funding its multi-million clean up.  Our statute is way too slack on managing the public risks of mining and way too trusting and generous to land owners and mining interests. It is a jumble of confused and internally self contradictory rhetoric.  No real teeth or science supporting the framework.

Here is an example of the kind of changes made to accomodate metallic mining throughout the many protective statutes in place. Sec. 15. 38 MRSA §480-D, sub-§3,  3. Harm to habitats; fisheries.was amended as follows:

“The activity will not unreasonably harm any significant wildlife habitat, freshwater wetland plant habitat, threatened or endangered plant habitat, aquatic or adjacent upland habitat, travel corridor, freshwater, estuarine or marine fisheries or other aquatic life.

In determining whether mining, as defined in section 490-MM, subsection 11, will comply with this subsection, the department shall review an analysis of alternatives submitted by the applicant. For purposes of this subsection, a practicable alternative to mining, as defined in section 490-MM, subsection 11, that is less damaging to the environment is not considered to exist. The department may consider alternatives associated with the activity, including alternative design and operational measures, in its evaluation of whether the activity avoided and minimized impacts to the maximum extent practicable”

Translation:  Mining is presumptively highest and best use of land and whatever is the most common technology is deemed to be the most feasible  least  harmful technology.   Sound public policy?

At the heart of the enormously complex science and risk management of modern metallic mining are four immutable facts

(1)    The metallic minerals left to recover in the earth are at almost microscopic levels.  A typical “viable” gold mine anywhere in the world on average requires 2 tons of ore to yield 1 ounce of gold. ( It is even less at Bald Mountain)

(2)    The disturbance of sulfide ores causes complex bio chemical and geo chemical reactions that can trigger uncontrollable non mitigatable releases of sulphuric acid and other toxics.

(3)    The science and technology for accurate prediction of harmful releases and of when after intial disturbance  they will occur is still very imprecise because of the unique profile of ores , climate and  weathering conditions mine to mine and even within different areas of a given mine.

(4)    Cyanide heap leach processing cannot be made safe and is the almost universally used  means of extracting microscopic levels of metal from sulfide ores because it is the cheapest and simplest..  Cyanide, it is now well known,  persists in complex toxic compounds at harmful levels not accounted for in standard waste management protocol and no one has invented a leak proof tear proof lining system .

There is an emerging consensus amongst global experts that the best available approach is a pre permit assessment of the potential to generate harmful releases focused on risk avoidance and maximum possible certainty.  In other words, knowing what is likely to be ahead, knowing the costs and availability of necessary technology to manage identified risks, developing an agreement with the mining company that holds them accountable to full responsibility for providing that technology all the way through, possibly permanently,  a strict standard of no off site harm, fail proof financial security guaranteeing performance of the agreement.

Our mining statute does not take this approach.  It requires no suitable standards for pre assessment of risk . no pre-permit agreement on the technology that must be used to mitigate and control risks, no adequate standards for the mining company’s/key personnel performance history and no adequate financial security on performance to protect the public interests.   It fails across the board. It must be repealed.

Our other major problem is that our DEP/LUPC rules and the rules for mining on state lands in place before enactment of Maine’s ill advised, mining statute are also woefully out of date with this science and technology and it would be just as disastrous to have a mine permitted under these old rules.  DEP’s new rules for exploration and advanced exploration are dangerously and recklessly worse than the rules previously in place.  What we need is a moratorium on all mining activity except that research which will give us better information about the risks and potential benefits of metallic mining in Maine, especially the acid generating potential at our major mining sites; Bald Mountain, Alder Pond and Mt Chase.

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About lindsaynewlandbowker

Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, is an independent non profit providing self initiated pro bono analysis on key issues with a potential for massive adverse environmental impact . Bowker Associates has been an internationally recognized and cited voice in analysis of the Samarco failure, its consequence, and the possibilties for recovery. In 2015 Bowker Associates collaborated with globally respected geophysicist David M. Chambers to recompile global authoritative accounts of significant TSF failures in recorded history and to analyze these data in the context of gloal mining economics 1910-2010 ( Risk, Economics and Public Liability of TSF Failures, Bowker/Chambers July 2015) In 2014 Bowker Associates commissioned globally respected geophysicist and hydrogeologist Dr. David Chambers to undertake two technical works: (1) development of technical go no go criteria for vetting mine applications tp://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/a-new-statutory-regulatory-framework-for-responble-sulfide-mining-should-this-mine-be-built/ and (2) a case study of Maine's Bald Mountain, an un mined low grade high risk VMS deposit demonstrating the efficacy and accuracy of two risk assessment tools in vetting mine proposals https://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/mountain-x-would-you-issue-a-permit-to-this-mine/ In Maine, Bowker Associates has deeply engaged and been a public voice in the Searsport DCP LPG Tank, The Cianbro proposal for a Private East West Toll Road, JD Irvings rolling pipeline of Bakken crude to its plant in St. John and review of Phase II plans at The Callahan Superfund site in Brooksville, Maine, and Maine's revisitation of mining in statute and regulation... Our only “client”: is always “the pubic interest”. Our model is to focus on only one or two issues at a time so that we have a substantive command of the relevant field as our foundation for ongoing engagement. Our core work is in envirommental risk management, science and technology as well as bringing any available “best practices” models to the fore. The legal and regulatory history/best models are also a major thrust of our work in building and evaluating public policy. Director/Principal Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM is a recognized expert in Environmental Risk Management., Heavy Construction Risk Management and Marine and Transit Risks and has more than 3 decades of engagement in buiding public policy. Appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to New York State Banking Board (served 1986-1996); President New York Chapter Chartered Property and Casualty Insurers; Environmental Committee, Risk and Insurance Management Society; Director, Convenor/Co-Chair Bermuda Market Briefing "From Captive to Cats" Hamilton Bermuda. Published Articles of Significance The Risk Economics and Public Liability of Tailings Facility Failures, co-authored with David M. Chambers, July 2015 Beyond. Polarization: Superfund Reform in Perspective, Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control (Jan. 24, 1997). Lead Hazards and Abatement Technologies in Construction: A Risk Management Approach CPCU Journal 1997 Employee Leasing: Liability in Limbo Risk Management June 1 1997 Environmental Audit Privilege and the Public interest Risk & Insurance Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Cost Control, April 1997 Asbestos:Holes In Abatement Policies Need To Be Plugged, Lloyd’s Environmental Risk International, May 1993 Editor Published Letters Evironmental Risk Management Beware of Facile Policies Like Fetal Protection Business Insurance 1995(?) High Court Review May Increase Sale of Bank Annuities Business Insurances August 8, 1995 Professional Profiles Protecting the Big Apple’s Core Managing Risk For Loss Prevention & Control December 1996 Major Career Highlights First rigorous analysis showing Relationship Between declining ore grades and TSF Failures of increasing consequence ( July 2015) FIrst Documentation that Gentrification Has Same Impacts as Unassisted Displacement from Urban Renewal Sites Direted Court Ordered EIS of FHA Mortgage Scandal Created Nation's First Homeownership Program for Low Income People (SHIP) Created Earliest Geographic Information Systems Using Defense Technology Developed By IBM Designed and Conducted Parallel Census Count to Show Systematic undercount in minority neighborhoods Documented Bias in ISO Territory Rating Plans for Private Passenger Auto Insurance Using ISO's own Rating Techniques Demonstrated Inherent Bias in Mortgage Policies of Banks With Inner City Branches Demonstrated that NY Telephones Plan for Area Code Split To accommodate anticipated cell phone demand was not efficient and would exhaust in 5 years ( which it did) Undertook First Systematic Evaluation of Child Protective Services Caseload Using Multi Variate Analyic Techniques Developed Child Protective Caseload Management and Tracking System (CANTS) and directed implementation in 4 client states including Illinois, Florida and New York Created and Ran Office of Risk Management for NYC DEP the Nations largest Water & Sewer Authority . Designed, Created and Administered Nation's First Owner Controlled Insurance Program (OCIP)for High Risk Tunneling Education Masters NYU Graduate School of Public Administration BSC New School For Social Research Maine Public Schools Deering High School
This entry was posted in Bald Mountain Aroostook Maine, History of Mining In Maine, JD Irving, Maine Mining Regulations, Maine Mining Statute, massive sulfide risk management, Metallic Mining, metallic mining zoning ordinances, Mining Regulation, plutonomy, politics of mining, volcanogenic massive sulfide, zoning & landuse for sulfide mining and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to REPEAL OF MAINE’S MINING STATUE UP FOR ACTION LATER THIS MONTH

  1. Bob Sipe says:

    Thank you Lindsey! I like reading your comments in the Bangor Daily News and the PPH, I just started reading your blog.

    • Thanks Bob..I think we have made the BDN & PPH blogs an information exchange not occurring through the papers themselves or otherwise. What we all did at the blogs on mining is in part what now brings us this opportunity for repeal. We are doing important work at our PPH BDN blogs. Thank you for being part of it and thank you for dropping by and leaving your most welcome note.

      There is now a date for the hearing 1pm April 29th. I am hoping to be able to testify in person.

  2. Phyllis Coelho says:

    WE MUST REPEAL THE MINING STATUE AND SUPPORT LD 1059 – THIS WILL DEVASTATE OUR LAND, WILDLIFE, CREATE MORE POLLUTANTS TO OUR AIR AND
    WATER – THIS BEAUTIFUL AREA WILL BECOME ANOTHER TOXIC WASTE DUMP! IS THIS THE KIND OF PROJECT WE WANT FOR A FEW JOBS? THERE IS NO SAFE WAY TO MINE!

    • Phylis thanks for stopping by and for your call to arms. Actually there are safe ways to mine if we do our homework up front and not give permits to “iffy” projects where there too much uncertainly.and if we set up clear “no/go zones” based on environmental and scenic value

      About 48 % of all mines permitted under EPA’s supposedly strict standards with no expected harm failed in a way that could not be corrected stopped or remediated in any way. We need a system for identifying this 48% up front and just not allowing mining at all in these sites. The science for doing is the same science we have always had. We just weren’t using it correctly.

      Until we have in place there should be an absolute moratorium on all metallic mining in sulfide ores.

      Thanks again for stopping by. The hearing is now scheduled..April 29th at 1pm. You can submit a state in PDF via the clerk who will take care of getting it to each member and on the record.

    • Barbara says:

      Phyllis
      Have you ever been to Ashland or Portage Lake, Maine America?? It blows my mind that people, such as you, will not support an opportunity for growth because you are afraid our environment will suffer yet you do not know where the “where is”! Toxic waste dump?? Few jobs?? Do you or have you educated yourself on current mining practices? Or are you out there complaining because you need something to complain about? When was the last time you put a kayak in the water? Gone fishing? There is no safe way to mine? Hmmm, you might as well throw out 1/2 of your household luxuries because most of those products come from mining “something” and trash your perscriptions too!
      I support the Bald Mountian Mining Project, I support growth and I love the enviroment inwhich I live.
      Barbara Pitcairn

      • Barbara,

        Actually yes, I have invested quite a lot of time investigating minig , the science of mining, all the data on Bald mountain and the other Maine mining sies, taled to all the experts including Robert Seale, USGS who has done the most extensive work at Bald Mountain and researched all the statutes and regulations I could find. I suggest you and the people of Ashland and Portage do the same. It is important to be well informed and make sound decisions when the risks are as high as they with metallic mining.

        75% of all mines permitted according to EPA standards with an expectation of no off site toxic damage failed. Of those 75% 65% could not be remediated. That means 48% of all mines should never have been permitted. We need a statute and a regulatory system that can identity the 48% of mines that should be “left in the ground”. That is what I seek.

        Until we have that then the mining statute should be repealed and a moratorium on all mining be imposed . Then we can work on doing it the right way.

        My family has been in Maine since the 1700’s. My grandfather was Superintendent of the Mill in Lincoln. State legislators and governors let Maine down when all the mills left. We have vast rich needed natural resources. There should be lots of ways to add value to these resources or just share enjoyment of them in way that can support every town in Maine. That is also something I care deeply about and put a lot pf time in on.

        I hope good things happen for Ashland and Portage as well.

        Thank you for stopping by

      • Growth of mankind will forever happen unless self destruction occurs. Nature will renew itself eventually. However if certain aspects of that which exists upon or within the earth clash in an unintended timeframe determined by nature, such as mankinds intervention to excel the event, Nature will not be ready to cope and mend. Without that which nature provides is the second method of self destruction by a slower death. If our mining laws allow this clashing of chemical or mineral interactions which may produce unintended or unwanted consequences, harming mankind or nature and our ability to exist, what is the point of Growth. Should we grow as a society in a toxic dump? Just to die a slower agonizing death? Lets be responsible and become a good ancestor.

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