LUPC staff recommends denying permit to Wolfden mining company

By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli, Houlton Pioneer Times Staff

In a draft decision document, staff of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission has recommended that the commission on Feb. 14  deny Wolfden’s rezoning application for the Pickett Mountain metallic mineral mine located near Mt. Chase.

In the draft document, the commission staff concludes that the proposed mining operation would not result in responsible mining of the metallic mineral resource at Pickett Mountain. And that Wolfden has not demonstrated that the project could represent environmentally responsible exploration and mining.

Last January, the Canadian junior mining company filed its rezoning application with the LUPC  to change the zoning for 374 acres at Pickett Mountain in northern Penobscot County to allow for a proposed underground metallic mineral mine. 

If the zoning change, from limited use to industrial use, was approved, it would allow Wolfden to seek a state mining permit with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Without the commission’s rezoning approval, Wolfden can’t proceed with its plans to mine minerals like zinc, copper and lead at Pickett Mountain.

Following 11 months of extensive document gathering, staff review, public comment and four days of contentious public hearings, the commission deliberated on the issue in December. The deliberations were held to provide guidance to LUPC staff before drafting the recommendation to either approve or deny the application.

The eight-member commission is charged with determining if the Wolfden project is financially sound, its effect on the region’s socioeconomics, wildlife resources and habitats, natural character, historical and cultural resources and tribal impact, and water and fish resources and aquatic habitat. 

During the December deliberations, several commissioners expressed concerns about Wolfden’s ability to responsibly move forward with the Pickett Mountain mining project. 

Commissioner Gwen Hilton said that she had seen no evidence or examples that Wolfden mines are high quality developments and not detrimental to the environment. 

“I don’t think that they have shown that this is financially practicable at this location. It’s really about this location and the resources that are there,” she said. “This particular location is really very sensitive and we have to be really careful. I don’t want to see any kind of pollution there.”

In a more than 100-page draft decision, the staff said that “considering all the evidence in the record and its weighing of that evidence, the commission finds that Wolfden has not demonstrated that the project would be financially practicable and technically feasible. Therefore, the commission finds the project is not well-planned and of high value.” 

The commission will meet at 10 a.m. Feb. 14 to make the final decision on the Wolfden rezoning application.

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