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Pembroke residents ban industrial mineral mining

Pembroke is the site
Ryan Malagara
DEVI Productions
Wolfden Resource Corporation has eyed Pembroke as the site for its "Big Silver" mining project.

Residents packed the Pembroke town office Wednesday night and voted 129-48 in favor of an ordinance that will prohibit industrial-scale metallic mineral mining operations and set new parameters for community-scale mining projects.

Ontario-based Wolfden Resources Corporation had been eyeing Pembroke as the site of a mining project, known as Big Silver. The company has said it owns the mineral rights to about 800 acres in the region and began exploratory drilling in the area last fall.

The exploration has generated opposition from local community groups and the nearby Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, who fear acid mine drainage would contaminate their wells and scallop-rich Cobscook Bay.

Friends of Cobscook Bay, a community group that helped draft the ordinance with help from an attorney, called the vote an exercise in "self-determination and local control."

"The concern overwhelmingly seemed to be for the town's water resources and the Cobscook Bay fishing grounds," said Katherine Swann, the group's president. "Cobscook Bay is an ecological focus area, and it's just the wrong place for a silver mine."

Severine von Tscharner Fleming is part of the Pembroke Clean Water Committee, a local citizens group that also formed in opposition to the mining proposal.

"We are a place that's confronting more and more land use issues as people are moving here in greater numbers," von Tscharner Fleming said. "In the beginning it felt like we were ill-equipped in terms of capacity of our environmental protection."

But the issue attracted a lot of young farmers like herself to the cause, she said, and the community learned how to conduct research and organize around common concerns.

"We have practiced our democratic muscles now, and we won't soon forget," she added.

The ordinance will only ban industrial-scale metal mining operations; it does not regulate gravel pits or other kinds of excavations of sand, fill, gravel, clay, topsoil, peat, silt or rock.

Wolfden officials didn't respond to requests for comment by publication time.