In the first serious test of Maine’s new mining laws, a Canadian company is making its second bid to open an underground zinc mine about 20 miles east of Katahdin on lands considered sacred to the Wabanaki and central to the state’s booming outdoor economy.

The Land Use Planning Commission on Monday opened a multiday review of Wolfden Chase Mtn. LLC’s application to reclassify 374 acres of land north of Patten from zoning that allows cabins to zoning that would allow metallic mineral mining.

The view from Mount Chase, near land purchased by Wolfden Resources Corp. Explorations in the 1970s revealed zinc, lead, copper and silver in what was dubbed the “Mount Chase deposit,” but no mining was attempted. Press Herald file photo

Wolfden says that Pickett Mountain has the country’s largest undeveloped reserves of a type of ore that contains high-grade zinc and smaller but still commercially valuable amounts of copper, lead, silver and gold.

“Maine has an opportunity to be a leader in responsible mining,” said Juliet Browne, the attorney representing Wolfden. “The only question is whether we do so responsibly in a jurisdiction with strict regulations and local support or we outsource it to another state or country with lax regulations.”

If approved, the mining exploration and development company would still need to obtain a mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, a process that could take years, before any excavation could begin. Processing would occur offsite.

Wolfden executives said its zinc operation would create 270 jobs, including 233 local mine jobs.


Environmental and tribal opponents claim Wolfden is underfinanced and inexperienced. They worry that exposing rock rich in iron sulfide to air or water will create sulfuric acid that could threaten the water quality of a region known for its native brook trout and wild salmon fishing.

“Wolfden’s financial statements show that the company is skating on thin ice,” said Earth Justice Attorney Aaron Bloom. “You will hear that the project is its only lifeline. As of March of this year, Wolfden has lost more than $41 million since its inception.”

Bloom noted the company’s own auditor questioned if it could continue as an “ongoing concern.”

Opponents claim the proposal leaves too many important questions unanswered, including how much money it would set aside for a clean-up if things were to go wrong, especially after the mine was to close when the ore is removed from the vertical half-mile deep vein.

Wolfden claims it has experienced principals, willing investors, a mining plan to limit acidic rock drainage, and a reverse osmosis system on deck that will treat the water used in the mining process so that it can be safely returned to the environment.

The company claims the rezoning application does not require as much detail as the mining permit application that would be required by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection if this application makes it past the first regulatory hurdle.


Wolfden’s latest rezoning application, filed in January, sparked official opposition from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Audubon, and two federally-recognized tribes, the Houlton band of Maliseet Indians and Penobscot Nation.

A Monday night public hearing on the proposal followed the technical presentations that took place during the day. The hearing lasted about two hours.


Close to 30 proponents and opponents lined up to speak passionately about the mine with supporters saying the mine would provide a significant boost to the northern Maine economy by creating jobs in an economically depressed region where high school and college graduates often are forced to seek higher-paying jobs and careers in other states.

The people opposed to the mine said its untested mineral extraction methods have the potential to harm the environment by polluting rivers and streams that flow through the region as well as local drinking water supplies. They point out that the mine would be located near a hugely popular outdoor recreation, Baxter State Park.

“We love Maine, the community and the natural resources,” said Peter Conley, of Island Falls. “But we need business in Aroostook County. We are dying.”


Conley said a large percentage of America’s supply of zinc, which is used in cellphones, comes from China. “It’s proven technology. America needs zinc mines,” he said.

Dennis Brackett,,of Patten, said he has lived in the town all his life. He described himself as a sportsman, who loves to fish and snowmobile. And while he enjoys the outdoors, Bracket said he supports the mine.

“We need jobs in this area and we need them now,” Brackett said.

Alice Bolstridge lives in Presque Isle. She is opposed to the mine, saying it poses too much of a risk to nearby vernal pools, wetlands and streams.

“How can they prevent toxic pollutants from reaching the rivers and streams. No metallic mineral mine in the world has been able to live up to the promises it made,” Bolstridge told the LUPC.

Todd Martin of Winslow is the Northeast Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. He spoke against the mining operation.


“Metallic mining threatens the clean waters of the Penobscot River,” Martin said, pointing out that the river is sacred to the Penobscot Nation.

In addition to having the potential to pollute waterways, Martin said the light and noise produced by the mine and truck traffic would threaten the dark night skies over the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

“It could pollute the darkest night skies east of the Missisippi,” he said.


The next public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Stearns Jr./Stearns Sr. High School in Millinocket, according to LUPC Chairman Everett Worcester.

Invited stakeholders will testify before the Land Use Planning Commission for three days this week on the proposal’s financing and the mine’s potential impact on the tribes and the region’s economy, history and culture, and natural resources and habitat.


The public can weigh in on the proposal on Tuesday in Millinocket and in Bangor on Monday or send in written comments through Nov. 2. The commission will consider the testimony and supporting documents during deliberations that won’t take place until the end of the year, at the earliest.

The application will be the first test of new mining regulations enacted by the Legislature in 2017 following years of heated debate largely focused on another large mineral deposit near Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.

Wolfden Resources, the parent company of Wolfden Mt. Chase LLC, purchased the nearly 6,900 acres around Pickett Mountain several months after the law passed and began conducting test drilling to gauge the quality of the underlying mineral deposits.

Wolfden submitted its first rezoning application for a smaller 200-acre Pickett Mountain site in 2020. The company withdrew it a year later, however, when the commission said it was going to reject the application because Wolfden had failed to answer basic questions about its application.

Wolfden’s first proposal would have used chemicals to treat the mining wastewater instead of the reverse osmosis system it is currently proposing. Wolfden claims this technology has been proven to work at other mines, but opponents say those mines were smaller than Pickett.

Geologists have long known about a sizable sulfide deposit – originally dubbed the “Mount Chase deposit” – containing zinc, lead, copper and silver. But Wolfden is the first company to try to mine it due, in part, to pre-2017 regulations that made metal mining all but impossible in Maine.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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