The planning and zoning board that oversees Maine’s most rural areas has rejected a proposal from a Canadian company to open a metallic mineral mine about 20 miles east of Mount Katahdin in what would have been the first real test of the state’s strict mining regulations.

The Land Use Planning Commission voted 5-2 Wednesday to deny a 374-acre rezoning application from Wolfden LLC of Ontario. Last week, board staff concluded the proposal did not offer enough sustainable economic opportunity to justify the risk to the region’s high-value natural resources.

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

Dissenting votes were cast by Peter Pray, of Millinocket, a retired paper mill supervisor and campground operator, and chairman Everett Worcester, of Orneville Township, a retired teacher, real estate appraiser and blueberry farmer.

Wolfden needed the land rezoned from cabins to industrial to apply for a state mining permit. The mining company did not respond to requests for an interview left Wednesday by phone and email, or say if it was giving up on its plans to extract zinc and copper from Pickett Mountain.

Environmental and tribal opponents cheered the LUPC vote and said they hope it will be the end of their year-long fight to stop the mine, which would be located in northern Maine just miles from Baxter State Park and Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument.

“Wolfden could not prove it would protect the clean water and extraordinary beauty of the Katahdin region,” said Nick Bennett of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This area holds high cultural significance to the Wabanaki Tribes and contains some of the best brook trout waters in Maine.”


Wolfden was the first to attempt metallic mining in Maine since the state adopted strict new regulations banning metal extraction in large open pits. It was the second time it had sought to rezone the property. Wolfden withdrew its first attempt after LUPC staff said the application was seriously flawed.

Wolfden purchased 6,900 acres around Pickett Mountain shortly after the mining law passed and began test drilling. Wolfden says Pickett has the country’s largest undeveloped reserves of ore containing high-grade zinc, and smaller but still valuable amounts of copper, lead, silver and gold.

The project had gained some favor among area towns after Wolfden said it would create 233 local jobs.

Last week, after the LUPC staff came out against the proposal, Wolfden President Ron Little expressed his disappointment and called on the board to delay its vote until the Legislature had filled its Franklin and Oxford board seats. He accused the Legislature of trying to interfere with the vote.

Aroostook, Franklin, Penobscot and Pisquaticus county officials also asked for a delay until new board members, one of whom was installed by the agriculture committee during Wednesday’s meeting, could vote, but sitting commissioners said the debate had dragged on long enough.

“We’ve been taking this up for quite a period of time,” said Commissioner Perry Ellis, of Strong. “We’ve sat through 10- and 12-hour sessions of public comment and we’ve sat through experts, questions and comments. I believe we shouldn’t delay this action any further.”


Environmental and tribal opponents worried that exposing rock rich in iron sulfide to air or water could have created sulfuric acid that could threaten local drinking water supplies, tribal fishing traditions, and the water quality of an area known for its native brook trout and wild salmon fishing.

The mine would have been located near a hugely popular outdoor recreation area – Baxter State Park. It is also next to the headwaters of the West Branch of the Mattawamkeag River, which is a sacred place to the Penobscot Nation.

“The LUPC heard and responded to the testimony,” Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis said in a statement issued after the LUPC vote. “This ruling is a great victory for the precious waters and lands of the Katahdin region and the people that rely upon them for sustenance and well-being.”

On Wednesday, a handful of members of state conservation groups, outdoor recreation companies, and Penobscot Nation and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians gathered in front of the LUPC meeting to express their opposition to the project.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, they held up heart-shaped signs urging the LUPC to reject Wolfden’s plan.


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