reminder: winona laduke, john banks, dwayne tomah
Other states with precious aquatic resources and similarly icy winters have taken a stricter approach than Maine has, what can we learn from this. A look at their website is also instructive, these organizers have mobilized massive support to successfully revoke the mining permits in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.
Here is a recording of last week’s great session focusing on the geology, tailings management and health impacts of metallic mining in our specific location here on Cobscook Bay. Thank you again to our expert speakers! And here are a few images from Andrew Stancioff’s presentation of similar metallic mines currently in operation.
You can watch all the previous events on www.pembrokecleanwater.org/events page.
As Pembroke considers an ordinance to regulate mining, the larger Cobscook region is having a conversation about why the small number of potential jobs related to mining metal is not worth the risk to the entire rest of the economy, the water, the fishing, the children, the future. Cobscook Bay serves as a nursery for the marine food web of eastern New England; it is currently endangered by a proposed poly-metallic silver mine in Pembroke, Maine that poses unacceptable risks of contamination for this relatively pristine region, currently under consideration as a National Heritage area. Known to the Passamaquoddy people as “Dawnland” this is a place renowned for sealife— pollock, cod, haddock, scallops, herring, sea urchins, lobsters, and now aquaculture-- Cobscook Bay is the largest producer of farmed salmon in the state of Maine. Historically, there had been over 27 canneries on these shores; these have now closed. Today, the conservation value and economic value of this landscape are well understood.
We cannot afford contamination here. The economy here is totally reliant on our natural resource base, 10% of residents hold commercial fishing licenses, tourism, logging and forestry, balsam wreaths and blueberries are our biggest employers in very small, scattered coastal towns—we don’t have other industries to fall back on here and cannot afford to ruin the natural wealth that drives prosperity and quality of life. Federal, state and private investment in the expansion of the wildlife refuge, fish passage, connected regional parks, and trails system has drawn tourists from across the country; these protected habitats make for healthy rivers and bays that sustain both recreational and commercial fishing.
Far from being a ‘job creator’ for Washington County, the proposed “Big Silver” mine instead looms as a ‘job destroyer’. A foreign corporation, Wolfden Resources LLC, has started preliminary operations in Pembroke with a mere 16-page work plan submitted to the DEP—early-stage exploratory mining is highly deregulated in Maine, but even these early diggings pose a risk to our drinking water, as 1600 foot boreholes may bring water into contact with metals-bearing rocks, and the high sulfur content of those deposits can create sulfuric acid, mobilizing heavy metals into the groundwater. The distance to Cobscook Bay from the proposed mine site is negligible (1.5 miles) and toxic material from the mine is very likely to spill into the local drainages, the local aquifers, and inCobscook Bay.
There are no metallic mines currently in operation anywhere in the world that meets the descriptions now being presented by Wolfden. All are unsafe and many have ended up as EPA superfund sites that have to be cleaned up at taxpayers' expense.
Unfortunately, after a 40-year informal moratorium on metallic mineral mining in Maine, the mining law of 2017 leaves much to be desired; among other weaknesses, although mining supporters state that the law bans open-pit mining, the law instead stipulates that open-pit mining up to 3 acres per mining operation is permissible. We have much work ahead to address the shortcomings of Maine’s mining regulations as well as enforce the rule of law as it is currently written.