Testimony: Fixing the Metallic Mineral Mining Act
Testimony in Support of LD 1433: “An Act to Exclude Pegmatites from the Definition of “Metallic Mineral”
Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and the distinguished members of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of LD 1433.
We have been open about our desire to see this circular definition of “metallic mineral” changed in order to allow for economically feasible extraction of the impressive lithium deposit at Plumbago Mountain in Newry. A review of testimony previously submitted provides a frame for the debate around making this small, but significant change in state law.
The Maine Forest Products Council is urging the state to “allow crushing, sorting and grinding of rocks containing lithium under the rock quarry regulations while continuing to regulate the chemical processing of lithium under the mining law,” noting that “these two processes are vastly different with different risk profiles.”
Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in its testimony noted that it preferred to avoid specific types of rock in the definition of “metallic mineral,” because “exempting a particular type of rock from the Mining Act exempts all activities with that rock.” DEP signaled its desire for “narrower, specific exemptions for lower risk activities.”
A possible compromise of these two perspectives could be to specify the processes—instead of rock being processed—which would constitute metallic mineral mining versus quarrying. Though, the mining industry seems to regard granitic pegmatites as a rock which would call for quarrying activities anyway, and not akin to metallic mineral mining.
Including the type of rock in the definition works because that type of rock is not environmentally dangerous to extract. This is not opinion; the US Geological Survey (USGS) has stated many times over the years that quarrying granitic pegmatites pose very low environmental risks. There is no reason Maine law should be more strict than USGS standards.
The bottom line is that the 2017 reforms of the mining law simply went too far. This is the opportunity to reign in a particularly absurd aspect which is unnecessarily holding back Mainers from earning a proper wage and contributing to the Mills administration’s ambitious electric vehicle goals, of which only 4% has been met so far.
Please deem LD 1433 “Ought To Pass” to make this small definitional change to the law and promote environmentally-sound economic development in western and northern Maine. Thank you for your time and consideration.