Mt.Chase revisits rejection of Wolfden resolution with new town vote

11 months ago

MT. CHASE, Maine — A recent petition put the Pickett Mountain mining project up for a second Mt. Chase town vote on a non-binding resolution in support of the project.

In a tight, 15-14 vote, Mt. Chase residents voted in April to reject a Canadian junior mining company’s resolution in support of the Picket Mountain mining project. Terry Thurston-Hill’s petition is asking Mt. Chase registered voters to reconsider the matter.

Towns have no authority to approve the mine. According to Maine law, Wolfden must first garner LUPC rezoning approval, then seek a Department of Environmental Protection mining permit before any mining can take place. This is the first test of Maine’s strict mining laws. Nonetheless, Wolfden continues to garner local support with promises of jobs and an economic boost to the community to enhance stock investments in Wolfden.

The petition needed 10 percent of the town’s 124 registered voters, or 12, for a new vote to happen, according to town officials. Prior to the May 23 vote, junior mining company Wolfden will give a presentation on the proposed mining project at the Mt. Chase fire station. Wolfden is the only scheduled presenter, town officials said.

Thurston-Hill, who lives in Mt. Chase and co-owns Shin Pond Village, could not be reached for comment, but in 2021, she said she was in support of jobs and an improved economy promised by the Canadian mining company.

This is Wolfden’s second stab at garnering Maine Land Use Planning Commission rezoning approval for a 374-acre parcel of the 7,135-acre Pickett Mountain project. Over the past year or so, Wolfden officials have been circulating a non-binding resolution for towns to sign in support of the mining project. Mt. Chase was the only town to stand up against Wolfden Mining Corp.’s public relations document.

“At least one community should raise the red flag that there is a risk,” said Lou Grant, a Mt. Chase resident, who along with her husband Don, the former Patten town manager, is deeply concerned about the mine’s impact on the area, especially the water.

“We are the gateway to Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park and the Kathadin Woods and Waters National Monument. Ee can’t jeopardize that resource for a short term economic gain.”

The work of junior mining companies like Wolfden is primarily exploration, said University of South Carolina Associate Professor of Geography David Kneas, who has been studying the language and behaviors of junior mining companies in Canada and around the world for many years.

“They rely heavily on investments and often sell out or partner with larger mining companies once the preliminary work is completed. Promises of jobs and economic gain made on a local level are not binding,“ he said.

In January, the junior mining company filed a second rezoning application with the LUPC, following the withdrawal of a 2020 rezoning attempt riddled with inconsistencies and missed deadlines. In February, the LUPC asked Wolfden for more information about the proposed underground mining operation, again citing application inconsistencies and missing information.

During the previous Mount Chase town meeting and Wolfden vote, resident Bill McCaffrey told residents about a property he and Susan Cullen own in Daggett, California, outside Barstow. It is 50 miles from the Mountain Pass Mineral Mining site.

“We were just there and there is no potable water,” he said. “The mountain is gone. It is barren like a desert with rotting grass.”

In February, LUPC staff asked Wolfden for information regarding water safety.

“The application does not include a sufficient demonstration that the discharge of collected storm and mine waters would have no undue adverse impact on downgradient wetland and stream hydrology, especially considering the timing and quantity of water flows,” reviewers said in a letter to Wolfden.

In response, Wolfden engineers said that Wolfden would collect the water and recharge it before spraying on the land near the mining operation. They said they will spray treated water from the mining operation, emulating rain and snow, over 31 acres and seven of 17 wetland areas.

LUPC staff are reviewing Wolfden’s application prior to a public hearing on the matter this summer.

The town presentation is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, in the Mt. Chase Fire Station. The vote will take place immediately after the Wolfden presentation.