Mining Laws in Maine Call Quarries into Question

Maine is seeking to amend its mining laws to exempt some metals from the state’s strict metallic mining regulations, provided developers can prove they won’t pollute nearby watersheds or cause other environmental harms, according to an article in The Maine Monitor.

The debate over what to do about metals mining has also raised questions about quarrying, an industry with a long history in Maine. While metals can’t be mined in open pits larger than three acres, the state has no limit on the size of open pits for quarries, which concerns some lawmakers.

Some people worried about habitat fragmentation want to know if there is a way to prevent the “swiss cheese effect,” of multiple pits spread across the area rather than a single large pit.

Quarries are hardly the only threat to habitat, pointed out Natural Resources Council of Maine staff scientist Nick Bennett, and often revegetate quite nicely, pointing to the long Maine tradition of swimming in old granite quarries.

“We have allowed all sorts of uses that have impacts on habitat and species – we allow roads. We have a lot more acreage of roads, I would guess, than we have of these new types of quarries.”

Lawmakers are also advocating for ensuring the state benefits financially from the new metal quarries, either through permitting fees or excise taxes or both. A quarry application costs $250; initial processing fees for a mining permit are $500,000, plus at least $20,000 each year for a permit.

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