Democratic lawmakers from southern Maine are crying foul over public meetings concerning the proposed Pickett Mountain mining project.
The Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) is discriminating against Democrats from southern Maine, the Democrats claimed in a letter last week, by holding the meetings in Millinocket, about a hour’s drive south of the proposed mining operation.
In a letter last week to the LUPC’s Tim Carr, almost every Democrat with a district south of Orono bemoaned the location of the two meetings, which will help determine whether Wolfden Mt. Chase, LLC gets to mine private land it already owns.
“[The commissions] current limited public comment schedule would effectively discriminate against Maine people by imposing unreasonable expenses and transportation challenges,” the Democrats said in the letter.
Wolfden already owns the Pickett Mountain land that it wants to mine for zinc, copper, lead, silver, and gold. The Canadian company has paid nearly $100,000 in application and processing fees for the project.
The LUPC meetings will hear testimony about Wolfden’s request for the rezoning of 374 acres T6R6 WELS, an unorganized township in northern Penobscot County.
The metals Wolfden is seeking to mine are used in everything from cell phones and cars to power generation and various electronics.
In its rezoning request, Wolfden said the project would employee 272 Maine residents and will follow strict procedures for protecting nearby bodies of water and other natural resources.
“It will also allow Maine to be a leader in showcasing responsible mining carried out in accordance with the strictest rules in the country,” the company said.
But lawmakers 200 miles to the south are very concerned about the potential impact of the mine.
Signatories to the letter included Sen. Stacy Brenner (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Lori Gramlich (D-Ocean Park), the Democratic leads on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, as well as Sen. Mike Tipping (D-Penobscot) House Speaker Rachel Talbott Ross (D-Portland).
“Interested parties who live in southern Maine might have to drive three or more hours to participate in a public hearing that could go well into the evening, then need to pay for lodging or drive home well past dark, raising safety concerns,” the Democrats said. “The costs of gas, lodging, and food could easily exceed $150 per person. These challenges discriminate against Maine residents without the money or time to travel to Millinocket, or who would be concerned about driving home after a late night in Millinocket.”
“The proposed Wolfen (sic) mine would be located in an area that holds important historical and cultural significance to Wabanaki people,” the Democrats said.
The letter also claims that allowing Wolfden to mine the land it owns would harm Wabanaki tribal interests.
Rep. Aaron M. Dana, the non-voting Wabanaki tribal representative, did not sign the letter.
Rep. Kathy Javner (R-Chester), whose Penobscot County district is about 28 miles from Millinocket, called the Democrats’ letter “tone deaf” and said their unwillingness to travel to northern Maine was disrespectful of Mainers living in her district..
“Driving in the dark is a safety issue? That is what every person experiences here on a daily basis,” said Javner.
“The loggers are on the road by 2:00 am. That is just reality. And for these Legislators to actually put in black and white that they feel this is a “hardship” is absolutely asinine,” said Javner.
Javner was especially ticked that Sen. Tipping, whose district contains many of the communities nearest to Pickett Mountain, would sign off on the letter.
“He represents all the way to Springfield,” she said. “I am sure they are NOT pleased with their Senator putting his name on this letter.”