Pickett Mountain in Penobscot County has what one company calls the country’s largest undeveloped reserves of an ore filled with valuable and beneficial metals.

Surrounding it, though, is one of the last great stretches of virtually undeveloped forest east of the Mississippi River. It’s no place to put a mine.

The site of the deposit is just a few miles away from Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument, and within the life-giving Mattawamkeag River watershed. The uncertainty inherent in the mining of metals mean a proposal now before regulators should not go forward. There is simply too much for Maine to lose.

The matter is now before the Land Use Planning Commission, the state agency that acts as the planning board for the unorganized territories.

The commission is considering a proposal filed in January by Wolfden Mtn. Chase LLC, a Canadian company that wants to rezone 374 acres near Pickett Mountain, which the company says holds deposits of high-grade zinc, as well as copper, lead, silver and gold in smaller amounts — metals needed for clean energy applications, though it’s not clear that there are enough to make a real difference.

About 129 acres would be cleared for mining operations, which would run for 10 to 15 years, with two additional years to close the mine. It is estimated to generate $1.36 billion and create 270 jobs, according the company’s analysis.


To open the mine, Wolfden will need a metallic mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. But first, it must win approval for what is known as a Planned Development Subdistrict from the planning commission. Public hearings on the subdistrict have been held, and commissioners are now deliberating on whether to rezone the land and allow Wolfden to move on to the next step.

The question before the commission is pretty straightforward: Would the proposed mine threaten the region’s character and principal values? Would it put at risk the vision our state has agreed to for the Moosehead region?

The answer, in our view, is clear.

For one thing, it’s hard to see how such a large mining operation meshes with a future of the region that values its four-season recreational opportunities, and working forests and farmland. Operations at the mine would take place 24 hours a day, bringing more traffic and artificial lights to a place that sells itself as a refuge from both. Such an operation would only serve to undermine the tourism industry at a time when it is really lifting the region up.

And once Wolfden starts breaking up rock in search of metals, it puts the region’s water quality at risk, too.

Mining of the type proposed for Pickett Mountain can expose iron sulfide in the rock to air and water, creating sulfuric acid that pollutes rivers and streams.


Under Maine law, Wolfden would be responsible for cleaning the water used in the mining operation and for years afterward. The company’s most recent application made changes to its plan, saying it would use reverse osmosis to clean the water before disposing of it through spray irrigation and snowmaking.

But, as opponents to the project have pointed out, Wolfden in its applications leaves a lot of questions unanswered when it comes to the environmental risk of its mining operation and the processes it will use to mitigate it.

And where they are specific, as with the reverse osmosis system, the company’s plan is at best untested, and often insufficient.

The company says it will have more information on its permit application if the rezoning is successful.

It cannot, however, in any real way assure the people of the region and the rest of Maine that the proposed mine won’t harm in some way what they love about it.

The mine proposed for Pickett Mountain would certainly bring tremendous profits to Wolfden, but it’s very hard to see what it would do for anyone else, or for the future of one of Maine’s most treasured areas.


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