The Board of Environmental Protection began its review Thursday of controversial changes proposed to state mining regulations.

Staff at the Department of Environmental Protection presented public hearing testimony the agency has received on issues relating to water quality monitoring, corrective actions in the case of pollution, wastewater treatment after a mine is closed and the financial assurances required of mine developers, said Jessamine Logan, communications director for the DEP.

The meeting was the first of several the panel is expected to hold before voting on new regulations, which are then subject to approval by the Legislature.

The proposal, part of an effort to streamline the permitting process for open-pit mining, has brought opposition from environmental groups and residents who believe mining could pose grave environmental risks to Maine. Particular concern has been focused on Bald Mountain in Aroostook County, where JD Irving of New Brunswick, Canada, has expressed interest in extracting gold, silver and copper.

Some residents of the economically depressed region, however, have vigorously endorsed the plan, citing the dire need for jobs that mining might help alleviate. Estimates of potential jobs have ranged from less than 20 to 700.

The board meets next Nov. 21 in Augusta.

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