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Maine regulators approve rules exempting certain projects from the state's mining laws

Jeff Swallow, left, and Tyler Snelgrove with Downing Drilling of Quebec prepare to restart the drill while working near Pickett Mountain north of Patten on March 7, 2018.
Gabor Degre
/
BDN
Jeff Swallow, left, and Tyler Snelgrove with Downing Drilling of Quebec prepare to restart the drill while working near Pickett Mountain north of Patten on March 7, 2018.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection has approved new standards for exemptions for certain small projects from Maine's strict mining laws.

The new exclusions would only allow for the extraction and physical processing of minerals in specific locations. Any waste from the site could not violate water quality standards or create acid rock or alkali rock drainage.

Actively mined areas would be limited to five acres. The Maine DEP's mining coordinator, Mike Clark, said at a meeting on Thursday that if a developer wanted to expand beyond that, they would be required to reclaim other parts of the site and restore the wildlife, vegetation and aquatic resources back to their previous state.

"That would have to meet our standard of 90% revegetation catch, in order to be allowed to expand in the excavation," Clark said.

Ongoing water monitoring would also be required, including groundwater and surface water monitoring for PFAS.

Board Member Robert Duchesne said he was also happy to see the legislature include "dark sky" standards dictating the brightness and direction of any light fixtures used on a project.

"It was beyond our authority to put Dark Sky standards into this, it was up to the legislature. But they did. And it came back to us that way. It may have been a long road to get there, but I think we've arrived at a place where a lot of us could be comfortable with," Duchesne said.

The new regulations follow the passage of a state law last year, which was partially spurred by the discovery of a large mineral deposit in western Maine. Another measure passed by lawmakers last month further clarified those rules.

At Thursday's meeting, the Appalachian Mountain Club signaled its support for the new rules.

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