The Maine Legislative Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted “Ought to pass” on LD 820, the bill supported by the environmental community that supposedly bans open-pit mining and wet-waste management but will allow contamination of ground water in restricted areas of underground or “shaft” mining. Concerned that any allowance of contaminated ground water cannot be contained to the mining area, I asked for evidence of such a mine successfully containing pollution from surrounding waters. I was told the Green Creeks Mine in Alaska is such a mine.
Researching this mine, I find great causes for alarm and no evidence that underground mines can adequately protect the environment or human health. In one article, Shoren Brown writes, “the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation released a study showing the Greens Creek mine is polluting Admiralty Island National Monument with acid mine drainage.” “Greens Creek has a long history of polluting Alaska's waters. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Greens Creek is Alaska's second biggest toxic polluter. It released 59 million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2000.”
Another article by Haines Watch says, “Greens Creek Mine has had hundreds of mining violations. Now, terribly, we know that the mine has greatly polluted Hawk Inlet. Local native communities are distraught over the possibility of a complete loss of subsistence in their ocean area. . . . These mines destroy and ruin a way of life that has gone on for thousands of years. Nothing is more “Restrictive” then destroying people’s food sources. Tourism, Commercial Fishing, Sub-fishing, and our native communities are all at risk.”
With any metal mining in Maine’s wet climate, local Maine resources of sports, fishing, and hunting as well as human health are at great risk. An article from the National Institutes ofHealth says, "Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury [all elements found at toxic levels at Bald Mountain] rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer."
I have repeatedly asked for evidence that any metal mining in Maine’s wet climate can be environmentally safe. No one—not the geologists I have asked, not the legislators, not the environmentalist supporters of LD 820—have been able or willing to provide such evidence.
I wrote to all the Maine legislators, explaining the risks and asking them to please vote against LD 820 and support a ban on any metal mining in Maine, but this week the Maine Senate voted 34-0 to pass the bill. If you are reading this and live in Maine, please contact your House member today and tell him or her to vote NO on the bill and to support a ban on Metal mining in Maine.
Published The Star Herald, May 17, 2017