The staff of the planning and zoning board that oversees Maine’s most rural areas is recommending the rejection of a proposal to rezone 374 acres of land about 20 miles east of Mount Katahdin to create a metallic mineral mine at Pickett Mountain.

The view from Mount Chase, near land purchased by Wolfden Resources Corp. Explorations in the 1970s revealed zinc, lead, copper and silver in what was dubbed the “Mount Chase deposit,” but no mining was attempted. Press Herald file photo

The recommendation comes before a Feb. 14 meeting where the Land Use Planning Commission is slated to vote on the rezoning bid from Wolfden LLC of Ontario. Wolfden needs that permit before it can ask the state Department of Environmental Protection for a mining permit.

“The project does not represent environmentally responsible mining,” the Feb. 2 staff memo reads. “There are overriding, conflicting public values that require protection, particularly the high-value water resources surrounding the project area.”

The memo, written by senior planner Tim Carr, executive director Stacie Beyer, and regional supervisor Billie Theriault, says the project is inconsistent with the commission’s charge to “support Maine’s natural resource-based economy and strong environmental protections.”

Environmental and tribal opponents say Wolfden is underfinanced and inexperienced. They worry that exposing rock rich in iron sulfide to air or water will create sulfuric acid that could threaten the water quality of a region known for its native brook trout and wild salmon fishing.

They also fear untested mineral extraction methods have the potential to hurt local drinking water supplies and note the mine would be located near a hugely popular outdoor recreation area – Baxter State Park.


The 100-page LUPC staff memo makes it clear that Carr, Beyer and Theirault share those concerns.

Wolfden President Ron Little issued a statement Friday saying that he was very disappointed with the staff recommendation, which he claims represented a reversal from the staff’s position in December when they acknowledged that the evidence weighed heavily in Wolfden’s favor.

“The recommendation today departs from that thorough review and weighing of the evidence,” Little said. “It is also at odds with the commission’s mandate to give increased emphasis to economic development and to honor the rights and participation of local residents and property owners.”

Little is urging the LUPC to protect its integrity by delaying its vote until representatives from Oxford and Franklin counties are confirmed to the commission, can attend a deliberation session on the Pickett Mountain application, and can cast their votes on the proposal.

Two nominations to the LUPC recently failed after the candidates refused to promise they would recuse themselves from the Pickett mine vote when questioned by the Legislature’s agriculture, conservation, and forestry committee, leaving the Oxford and Franklin seats vacant.

Pickett Mountain could be the first serious test of Maine’s new mining laws. The Canadian junior mining company is making its second bid to open an underground zinc mine north of Patten on land considered sacred to the Wabanaki and central to the state’s booming outdoor economy.


Current zoning allows cabins, but Wolfden needs industrial zoning to allow for metallic mineral mining.

Wolfden says that Pickett Mountain has the country’s largest undeveloped reserves of a type of ore that contains high-grade zinc and smaller but still commercially valuable amounts of copper, lead, silver and gold.

If approved, the mining exploration and development company would still need to obtain a mining permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, a process that could take years, before any excavation could begin. Processing would occur offsite.

Wolfden executives said its zinc operation would create 270 jobs, including 233 local mine jobs.

The application will be the first test of new mining regulations enacted by the Legislature in 2017 following years of heated debate largely focused on another large mineral deposit near Bald Mountain in Aroostook County.

Wolfden Resources, the parent company of Wolfden Mt. Chase LLC, purchased the nearly 6,900 acres around Pickett Mountain several months after the law passed and began conducting test drilling to gauge the quality of the underlying mineral deposits.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story