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Thoughts on mining potential
for Aroostook County

There have been numerous letters written concerning the new draft DEP mining rules expressing concerns over water quality associated with the mining process. I believe it is important that we in Aroostook try to understand all aspects of this "potential" effort. Some facts that we need to understand:
1) The draft rules do not negate Maine state water quality rules - water quality in the immediate vicinity of a mine cannot be degraded in any manner whatsoever! Furthermore, extremely strict requirements exist in these rules from initial exploration through 30 years after closure.
2) The purpose of LD-1853 passed in 2012 was to consolidate the permitting process under one agency (the DEP) to streamline an existing cumbersome process. It is a necessary step if mining is going to be explored.
3) Soils and water in and around mineral deposits contain large amounts of naturally occurring arsenic and when modern treatment technologies are applied in mining, the ultimate result of the process is in essence "distilled water". Those technologies exist - one example being a process called reverse osmosis that is being used successfully in Canada with examples in Quebec where mining exists on the very edge of towns where they are operating successfully and producing good output water. There are four new mines being considered in New Brunswick and they will all use state-of-the-art water treatment prior to waters rejoining streams or rivers. In short, fishing does not go away because of mining.
4) Technology is a key factor - mining is the most heavily regulated industry in the US. We have learned from the past and citing examples of 50-year-old problems using 70-year-old technology is disingenuous. We need to give the DEP and our engineers a chance to use modern technology advancements to explore this key industry.
5) From an economic development perspective, mining has the greatest near term potential to help Aroostook County with jobs/increased wages and will create the opportunity for numerous additional new businesses/jobs. Economic prediction models show that if 300 new jobs and another 300 indirect jobs were generated, that ~$15M in annual wages and an additional $45M per year could be added to the County's gross domestic product. The mining industry has the GREATEST POTENTIAL to really boost Aroostook’s economy!
6) Aroostook currently has a diminishing 18 to 44 year old workforce. We therefore need to both retain and attract workers to our region if we are to sustain and grow business. Estimates vary but undoubtedly, some key workers and their families would have to come here from outside Maine to engage in mining, as we do not have all the necessary expertise. That is great, it is the right trend and in fact, attraction is what Aroostook needs now and in the future! Families coming here that will buy houses, raise their kids, populate our schools, pay taxes and help increase our 18 to 44 year old workforce are exactly what we need to help boost our economy. In addition, mining will bring more business to our colleges as they train the geologists, civil engineers, chemical technicians, electricians, and welders, etc.
7) Companies like JD Irving, that have vast resources, are heavily engaged in forestry, practice excellent multicultural (forestry management/replanting) practices, and want to preserve their land for forestry as a minimum. Once the rules are in place, they will be able to explore, on their land & using their mineral rights, to determine if mining is feasible. Many factors will be evaluated and if feasible, engineers will determine the best method to extract the ore. Whether that is an underground or an open pit mine is still to be determined.
8) The Irving company has stated that if they mine, they will do it right or not at all. With their large forestry operation, new $30M mill, and their reputation at stake, I believe they will comply with all laws and do it right. In fact, I believe that we could not be more fortunate than to have a company like Irving spearheading this effort. Who else is willing and able to invest almost a billion dollars to advance the economy and create much needed jobs in Aroostook?  And we shouldn’t forget that Irving graciously allows all sorts of recreation, hunting, fishing and access to lakes using their land via roads that they maintain that greatly contribute to our tourist industry and enjoyment of our north Maine woods.
Bottom line: I firmly believe that we can have mining AND protect the environment - it is not an either/or situation. If New Brunswick can do it, so can we. We need to be open minded, let engineers and advanced technology work, get this new industry that will greatly advance our economy going, and provide more opportunities for County folks to have good jobs. It is my strongest recommendation that our legislators ensure the rules are adequate but get them passed so we can proceed with the exploration and feasibility analysis.

 

   

dorsey
President and CEO
Aroostook Partnership



 

 

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