Sent by Alice Bolstridge to the Bangor Daily News | May 24, 2023
Inspired in 2012 by proposals to mine for precious metals at Bald Mountain in my home town area, I have been researching risks and benefits of metallic mineral mining for more than a decade. Early on, I asked proposers, “What is an example of metallic mineral mining operation that has not caused serious pollution?” One geologist when confronted with evidence that his example was in fact polluting surrounding waters said, “Well, it depends on which scientist you believe.” My research tells me scientists with financial ties to the industry believe “modern” mining is safe for the environment and human health while independent research scientists believe that metallic mineral mining is still among the dirtiest industries in the world.
Through the years since 2012, including through the passage of the 2017 law questionably said to be “the strictest in the nation” (I haven’t seen evidence for that), I continued to ask the question and still have not found one example of a mine that has not caused serious pollution. From my research, I conclude that the 2017 law is not strict enough to prevent serious pollution either. It allows contamination of ground water in the “mining area” unlimited 3-acre open pits, and has other problems that could cause harm to the environment and human health. That law should be strengthened or replaced with a regulatory framework that prevents harm rather than tries to punishes it after harm is done. Instead, we are now faced with another proposal that would weaken current law. LD 1363, “An Act to Support Extraction of Common Minerals by Amending the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act” was voted out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, “Ought to Pass.”
This bill would allow open-pit mining of spodumene, the metallic mineral that contains lithium used in batteries to power consumer electronics and electric vehicles. Again I ask the question, What is an example of a lithium mining operation that has not caused serious pollution? Again I find no satisfactory answers, and one incident reported by the Institute for Energy Research NOVEMBER 12, 2020, provides a striking image of environmental destruction caused by lithium mining: “In May 2016, dead fish were found in the waters of the Liqi River, where a toxic chemical leaked from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine. Cow and yak carcasses were also found floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third incident in seven years due to a sharp increase in mining activity.” (https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/the-environmental-impact-of-lithium-batteries/ )
LD 1363 would further weaken the current Metallic Mineral Mining Act and should not pass into law.