History of Maine’s Mining Laws & Regs and of Bald Mountain The Epicenter

claytonlakeusgsstudy Bald Mountain

Maine had an important opportunity of national and perhaps global significance to  write the first comprehensive statute and regulations fully translating  the science and technology  of the last two decades  into public policy for metallic mining. Even if we had accomplished that important task, the mountain at the epicenter of interest here in Maine. Bald Mountain in Aroostook County, would be a challenge.  It is a much studied VMS ( Volcanogenic Massive Sulfide)deposit highly reactive and therefore certain to be acid generating in all parts of the waste rock and deposit. It has no neutralizing capacity at all within or near the mine and has anomalously high levels of arsenic.  Maine has chosen instead to ignore all the science and all the examples of translation into policy and worse, it has chosen not to face the truth of Bald Mountain.
The story of Maine’s mining statute and the reality of these rules that would be laughable if the consequences were not so grave is a classic in bad government and unwise policy.
The rules have no relationship to the past 3 decades of study and technology  and growing global consensus on how to translate this experience and understanding into law and policy.
Here are the actual rules.


(1/16/14 DEP/BEP have apparently removed this version of the ew rules as originally presented from their web site.  I have my own copy and will create a link to that in the next day or so )

The mountain that prompted this “revisitation” of mining in Maine, Bald Mountain  in Aroostook County, is owned by Canadian private holding company JD Irving who own over a million acres of Maine’s wilderness and whose company includes forest products, petroleum refining and transportation companies.
There has probably never been an un mined mountain in North America with so much scientific data and study   I have compiled that into an annotated bibliography to support journalists , advocacy groups, researchers, legislators, scientists and scholars.  A working version of that directory is posted at https://lindsaynewlandbowker.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/bald-mountain-resource-directory-of-past-study-exploration/ . It is being updated on a daily basis.I have been reading through, all known records from 1977 when Mainer JS Cummings, economic geologist and innovator, discovered the deposit using original and out of the box techniques through the most recent geochemical analysis and monitoring studies in the 1998.  I have been translating them into pdf and disseminating item by item with explanation and analysis to global exerts in mining, Maine legislators, agency staff, Maine and Canadian advocacy groups and USGS scientists who have studied certain aspects of Bald Mountain and journalists.  My aim is to insure that the science, technology and most important work in mining of the past three decades is available to all who have in interest in mining in Maine.
From the time of its discovery in the late 70’s until Boliden acquired the lease in 1989 no experienced mine planners, mine developers and mine engineers were involved.  Discoverer JS Cummings put together a joint venture of investors to explore the mountain and plan its development and has written a great deal about why that never materialized to a full exploration or a meaningful mining plan but as he himself notes in his published works most had no mining experience or brought in experience in porphyry desposits applied that to Bald Mountain, which is a VMS deposit.
Still Mr. Cummings work and the joint venture he hobbled together caused a big stir, a lot of controversy and a lot of interest which culminated in a 1985 one line statute directing the LUPC (then LURC, Maine’s zoning agency for the vast unorganized territories comprising more than 1/3 of Maines geography) and the DEP to develop mining rules.  They systematically avoided doing that until  Boliden forced that in 1991. When Bolden was ready to submit a mining application, they were advised by then DEP Commissioner, that a mining application could not be submitted until the rules were developed and implemented.What was produced in 1991 was as much out of synch with any real understanding of mining as an industry or as a field of science and technology as the current rules are and that was a frustration expressed by John Cesar, President of Boliden Maine, throughout Bolidens very brief consideration of Bald Mountain between 1989 and 1993.
Prior to 1989 JS Cummings joint venture and successor Chevron never had a permitting relationship with any state agencies so there is no public record until just before Boliden took over except those few documents that survived as leases transferred and later became part of permit applications by reference mostly rather than submission of the actual records.  JS Cummings himself now 83 and living in Texas no longer has any of his original records but documented his experience in several privately published books. ( https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw0jCpuVRzgEY1NiczJ5MVJJRVk/edit?usp=sharing  )When Boliden took over from Chevron in 1989 they expected to mine the entire deposit top to bottom open pit to a depth of 800 feet over 13 years. Actual correspondence files between DEP/LURC and Boliden indicate that Boliden and expected to employ between  30 and 130 people. A Later application by Black Hawk said that Boliden’s full extraction plan would have employed 200 people. ( I have not seen any official statement by Boliden on how many they expected to employ in their original full excavation plan.) Boliden was very experienced in mining VMS deposits under very stringent environmental  regulations They commissioned excellent globally respected labs and consultants to assess the mountain and further guide their plan including  Steffan. Robertson and Kirsten now known as SRK.

This work undertaken in 1990 https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw0jCpuVRzgEei1hU0hEMVVUVVk/edit?usp=sharing

for the first time very clearly laid out the environmental challenges and anomalies of the deposit and the risks to down gradient ground and surface waters and pristine habitats.  Almost all parts of the deposit are highly reactive and with absolutely no neutralizing potential. Average concentrations of arsenic are anomalously high throughout the deposit and phenomenally high in certain areas. The nearest comparable I have found is the Brunswick 12 massive sulfide just across the border  ( Bathurst Camp)

Here is a graphic easy to understand summary of Bolidens stunning 1990 analysis.


Mark Stebbins was the key DEP official on the Boliden work at Bald Mountain and is still mining coordinator at DEP. So although there was no public release or discussion of this alarming picture of Bald Mountain, this information has existed since 1990 and was also known to now Exceutive Analysr at the BEPm Cynthia Bertocci who was at the time with LURC. I extracted it from the later Black Hawk application (1995) but it was also in the DEP/LURC file on Boliden.

On the basis of SRK’s really excellent work Boliden quickly scaled back to a much smaller plan, only 500 feet and a surface area of 30 acres targeting higher grades of ore.  Steffan Roberston and Kirsten did another round of work in support of that plan in 1992https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bw0jCpuVRzgEekpndzM1aGZnZEE/edit?usp=sharingBoliden renegotiated the baseline monitoring and other parameters with State officials based on the smaller mine plan they had decided to explore to avoid some of the environmnetal issues..
 By this time Boliden had forced the LURC/DEP to issue rules and there were many issues with those rules being idiosyncratically out of synch with the mining industry and with standards and references like Canadas Mend program which were readily available.  For example, in correspondence with LURC just provided to me by LUPC, Boliden is trying to explain that the detection limits set by DEP’s authority in the 1991 regulations ( but not expressed in the regulations) were too low for any known commercial lab any where and that they would result in a 100% error rate in comparison to a standard 28% error rate for conventional and customary lab standards.This issue was a long and difficult one, in fact, occurring as the draft regulations were already “out”. In a January 16, 1991 memo from Boliden Lab AAA Boliden specifically addresses concerns about “reporting to a requirement with a known 100% error rate.
There is clearly the impression, then as now, that DEP/LUPC(LURC) used a very interior process rather than consulting or utilizing the entire body of understanding and work that was available at that time.  According to JS Cummings book excerpted below, then as now, DEP/LURC hired a highly regarded Minneapolis consultant, Ernest K Lehman whose work was simply rejected by DEP/LURC.  JS Cummings book includes a letter from the consultant commenting on the unprofessional approach Maine DEP/LUPC was taking with its rules. According to Cummings account Lehman had publicly denounced the staff written draft rules to the Bangor Daily News on December 6, 1990
Whether it was the very strange rules promulgated by Maine in 1991 or the challenges of the mountain itself is not clear but the 1992 Steffan Robertson and Kirsten report does not give a clear path to an environmentally and economically feasible mining plan even at the much scaled back much smaller level they were then aiming for. There is no document in the official record that lays out Bolidens full scale mining plan, at least not that has been identified and provided to me. In the interim since Boliden began in 1989 prices had fallen considerably and other higher grade mines were competing for investor interest.Whatever the reasons, Boliden having, spent $20 million on Bald Mountain, sold it to Black Hawk in 1995 for $2 million..another totally inexperienced and, as it would turn out, disreputable player in the mining circuit.
DEP was already aware of issues in a Blue Hill Maine mine that Black Hawk had played a major role in developing then sold off and other than that Black Hawk, a Denison paper only subsidiary, had absolutely no actual mine development, mine engineering, mine closure experience at all.  DEP & LURC approved the transfer, nonetheless. ( Maine’s standards in general in applicant qualifications are poorly informed and poorly articulated, especially for transfer of permits)
Black Hawks scaled back plans at Bald Mountain to a very tiny gossan only open pit mine(200 ft, very small surface area) with on site vat leaching aimed primarily at gold and silver.  It would have employed about 60 people, according Black Hawk and would have exhausted in 3 years.  Black Hawk commissioned additional work based on this new plan providing more detail on the geochemistry of the gossan than had been developed by Boliden.  Again, very highly respected consultants and labs were used and this new work was submitted as part of the formal mining plan submitted in 1997.
The application was not accepted as complete and despite the difficulties for any mining company trying to work within DEP/LURC’s idiosyncratic 1991 regulations, I agree with the specifics outlined in the many pages detailing what additional work and data was needed to complete the application. The arsenic residue was a  principal issue.  The major issue though is endemic to all open pit mining.  The plan outlined by Black Hawk would have dropped the down gradient ground water levels by 8 feet for 3 years.  Then ( and now ) mining coordinator, Mark Stebbins, correctly noted this would cause a permanent loss of wetlands and associated habitats that could not simply be re established or recreated through new wetland creation or restoration in the reclamation phase.
Black Hawk, by any standards, did not submit a complete application.  They applied for an extension of time to do the additional work which DEP/LURC granted but then quickly noticed their withdrawal of the application and requested their $30,000 application fee be returned.
Lucky for Bald Mountain and the pristine headwaters down gradient.  Black Hawk was an unmitigated disaster at Keystone in Manitoba, a mine already in advanced exploration that they acquired just before Bald Mountain.  They escaped all accountability and protected their rights to royalty income from other assets through a long complicated chain of pea under the walnut corporate shuffles and continue in name only as a subsidiary of Denison in Toronoto.stripped of all.mining assets but still receiving income from royalties. Here in Maine Black Hawk is a named PRP in our superfund site as they are at Keystone.When Back Hawk took over from Boliden, USGS sought and received permission to do a pre-mining baseline study of ground waters using the existing monitoring wells . The data from that USGS study by the globally respected Dr. Robert Seal was the first publicly available data on the possible risks at Bald Mountain.Dr Seals study documented pre-mining down gradient elevated levels of arsenic and low ph in ground waters as far away as 12 km. To my knowledge there was no public presentation or discussion or press coverage of Dr. Seals findings here in Maine.
In effect Maine’s 2011 mining statute removed mining from accountability under all environmental regulations creating a separate statute with its own much lower standards including allowing on site groundwater pollution and declaring that in considering alternatives to mining where there is indicated loss or damage to habitat and wild life no  less harmful alternative to mining is presumed to exist. The statute is a joke. It is a trust without verification approach with voluntary self inspection reports.  It is definitely not a standard for modern mining legislation that responsibly balances environmental protection with metallic mining or even makes a coherent relevant statement of policy about that.  Anyone who knows mining and specializes in policy can readily see that.
Once again they hired an outside “expert” to assist in writing the Maine mining rules.  Due to a faulty procurement process ( Maine didn’t get that it would take some outreach to make our needs known and to develop a pool of qualified bidders)  we had only one bid from a minor subcontractor on hydrogeology to Rio Tinto, North Jackson.  I challenged the procurement as did major Maine environmental advocate NRCM.  DEP officially in writing in the papers claimed North Jackson is qualified and had participated in the development of Michigans rules.  It is obvious to anyone that these rules are informed  by nothing other than JD Irvings desire to have a free hand at Bald Mountain.
Maine has had an important opportunity to be the first state in the U.S, to start from scratch and write a truly modern, truly relevant, truly well informed statute and set of regulations.  I still hold out hope for that and believe we can achieve it by starting over
Lindsay Newland Bowker CPCU ARM. Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd
Stonington, Maine 04681

August 27, 2013

2013 Address in Winnipeg on challenges of VMS deposits


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, Mining Regulation, volcanogenic massive sulfide and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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