Maine Officials Deny Mine Proposed Near Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument

Maine officials have denied a request to rezone land near Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument for a zinc mine/NPS file

A zinc mine proposed to be developed seven miles from Kathadin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine was blocked when a split state Land Use Planning Commission refused to rezone the land in question to allow for the operation.

Wolfden Resources Corp., a Canadian company, had asked the commission on Wednesday to postpone a vote on the rezoning question until the state legislature could confirm two additional members for the commission. That request was denied, and five of the seven commissioners present voted to reject the rezoning request for 374 acres to allow the Pickett Mountain Mine to be developed.

“We are very disappointed in the outcome and that the final decision is at odds with the prior comprehensive staff assessment and the conclusions reached by independent experts hired by the Commission to review the application,” Ron Little, president and CEO for Wolfden, said in a release Thursday. “Instead, the staff was directed to draft a recommended decision document to deny the project — a decision that is not substantiated by the evidence in the record.”

In a memorandum issued February 2, the Land Use Planning Commission pointed out that it had been reviewing the request for more than a year, had held a public hearing on the matter, and had held internal deliberations on the request. Additionally, the commission noted that postponing the vote “would not comply with the statutory requirement for the Commission to act on rezoning applications within 90 days of the close of the record.”

Commission staff had recommended against the rezoning, citing water quality concerns and stating that “the project does not represent environmentally responsible mining.”

“Wolfden could not prove it would protect the clean water and extraordinary beauty of the Katahdin region,” said Nick Bennett, staff scientist at 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. The spectacular fishing in the area helps local outdoor recreation companies and sporting camps stay in business.”

The commission’s decision was applauded by conservation organizations and tribal leaders.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and for all who live in and visit the region,” said Todd Martin, Northeast senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Stopping the mine is the right thing to do and better protects Maine’s iconic wildlife, clear waterways and prized fishery from industrial mine pollution. Thanks to the foresight of the Land Use Planning Commission, tribal leaders and the hundreds of Mainers who came together to speak out, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will remain a wild place of quiet solitude for all to enjoy.”

The mine project was also opposed by opposed by the Penobscot Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, local outdoor recreation businesses, and hundreds of residents statewide, according to Earthjustice.

“We are thankful that the LUPC heard and responded to the testimony of Wabanaki people, experts, and the people of Maine by rejecting Wolfden’s mining proposal. 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,” said Penobscot Tribal Chief Kirk Francis.
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