Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission held its final public hearing Monday night on a proposal from a Canadian company that is asking the commission to rezone 374 acres of land near Pickett Mountain in Penobscot County to allow for a large scale metallic mining operation.

Wolfden Mtn. Chase LLC, a Canadian company, 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. The lands, which are about 20 miles east of Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, are considered sacred to the Wabanaki nation and central to the state’s booming outdoor economy.

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

While Wolfden views the land as holding significant value to its business operations as well as the regional and national economies, the majority of people who spoke at Monday night’s hearing stated their opposition to the project. More than 50 people signed up in advance to speak at the hearing. Nearly everyone who testified said potential pollution from the mining operations would not only threaten major waterways like the Penobscot River, but could leave future generations of Mainers stuck with a huge cleanup bill.

The mine would be located just a few miles of two natural treasures – Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument – and is located within the Mattawamkeag River watershed. About 129 acres out of the 374-acre project site would have to be cleared to allow for mining operations.

“This application has generated statewide interest and the level of concern you have seen tonight must be taken seriously,” said Sen. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth. “If you approve this application, it could be the first step into turning Maine into a mining state. Tell Wolfden that Maine is not their mining playground.”

Dwayne Tomah of the Passamaquoddy Tribe urged the commission to take steps to protect the environment and to reject Wolfden’s application because damaging the waterways in that part of Maine has the potential to impact everyone’s health and way of life.


“We have a deep connection to our Mother (Earth). She’s hurting. She is in danger, in serious danger,” Tomah said. He asked the commission to not let the economic benefits of a mining operation influence its decision. Wolfden is promising the mine will create 270 high-paying jobs for the Katahdin region.

“Don’t let the economy drive this. Our Mother is sacred. She will provide for us, but we have to look out for her because she will look out for us,” Tomah said as he turned from the podium to look at the audience gathered at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. “We are all affected by this mine because we are all connected.”

Several high school-aged students also spoke in opposition to the mine, saying that it would contaminate the environment and place the health of future generations at risk.

“I want to grow up in a clean and healthy environment, but I don’t think this mining operation will support a clean and healthy environment,” said 17-year-old Scarlett Labbe-Watson, of Rockland. Labbe-Watson said operating a mine for 10 years and then closing it doesn’t make sense to her.

Jeremy Ouellette, vice president of product development for Wolfden, said the company envisions operating the mine for 10 to 15 years, with an additional two years spent closing out the site. He also said that it would take between two and three years of study and review by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before the mine could be become operational.

Mali Obomsawin, of Old Town, warned the commission about falling for what she described as Wolfden’s “empty promises.”


“Metallic mining presents a profound environmental risk to the Penobscot River and to the fisheries,” Obomsawin said. “Any decision we make now will live on far beyond today.”

State law requires that any applicant seeking a metallic mining permit in an unorganized territory to petition and receive approval for a Planned Development Subdistrict from the LUPC before it can seek a metallic mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Environmental and tribal opponents also say that 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 latest rezoning application, which was 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.

After Monday’s public hearing, the public will have 10 additional days to submit written comments to the commission. Another seven days will be made available after that for filing rebuttal comments. The commission can then choose to close the comment period or reopen the process for more hearings.

Once the hearings have been closed, the commission will deliberate and decide on whether to rezone the land. Decisions are typically rendered at a regularly scheduled commission business meeting.

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