RE: LD160“An Act to Prohibit the Mining of Massive Sulfide Ore Deposits under the Metallic Mineral Mining Act ” sponsored by Representative Duchesne; Co-Sposored by Senator Saviello
LD159 An Act To Prohibit the Mining of Massive Sulfide Ore Deposits on State Lands; Presented by Senator Saviello Co-sponsored By Senator James Dill
January 23, 2017
Dear Senators Saviello & Dill & Representative Duchesne::
With reference to the two identically worded bills you have sponsored, LD159 directed to the Mining on Public Lands Statute and,LD160 to Pl 2011 C653 , The Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act, Maine has no identified massive sulfide deposit with > 1million tons of “metallic minerals” . Bald Mountain, Maine’s largest identified massive sulfide is a deposit of 33 million tons per USGS ( Slack et al,) most recent re examination of core contains far less than 1 million tons of “metallic minerals”( somewhere around 300,000).
As you also know, all of the identified metalically mineralized deposits in Maine are “Massive Sulfides”, the others much smaller than Bald Mountain so the framing of both bills has no effect whatsoever on how or where any of Maine’s existing known massive sulfide deposits can be mined and no effect whatsoever in lowering the extremely high level of potential public liability of metallic mining which can accrue under our present two mining statutes and under the third round of Chapter 200 rules DEP is advancing.
Even a complete ban on sulfide mining would still allow gold and silver mining of the Gossan at Bald Mountain and I refer you to the Black Hawk application, coordinated by MarK Stebbins, for a better understanding of the never resolved possibilities of total loss . Under our present legal framework and the third round of Chapter 200 rules these liabilities are not reduced but actively accepted as public loss through exemption from previously applicable environmental law, most egregiously specifically allowing onsite groundwater contamination.
From the beginning, JSCENR has not been completely truthful with the people of Maine or the legislature on the fact that our Metallic Mineral Mining Statute (Pl 2011 C 653). restructured all previously existing Maine environmental law to remove those provisions that Bolidens mining consultants at Bald Mountain had identified as not attainable by any known mining technology. The effect of that was to simply accept the public liabilities of removing those standards from mining while leaving them in place for all other public and private enterprise.
The JSCENR has not been forthcoming with the people of Maine or our legislators on the conflicting provisions of the pre existing 1985 Mining on Public Lands statute.
It is more than disappointing in light of this legislative history as lead by JSCENR and further enabled by DEP to see these two bills put forward when the need identified over these several years is to start over with both laws.
Here is the exact language of both bills
“Massive sulfide ore deposit” means a metal sulfide ore deposit that, contains in total 1,000,000 tons or more of metallic minerals.
So many elements of these two seeming simple and straight forward bills repeat exactly the same kind of legislative errors that have kept us from meaningful progress towards a clear, well informed legal framework for mining.
(1) inventing definitions inconsistent with established and universal definitions and terminology in the mining industry “Massive Sulfide” ( more properly “Volcanogenic Massive Sulfide” for our geology here in Maine”) is a designation within the science of geology that already has a definition. Recall how much time has been wasted over these several years over DEP’s made up term “wet mine waste units”. Making up terms or alternate definitions is not helpful or even responsible in the context of a legal framework for an industry as complex and high risk as metallic mining . Such practices do not not inspire confidence among quality prospective investors and responsible mine developers. There is no clarity if law makers reinvent and misapply the lexicon of the regulated industry.
(2) lack of due diligence in understanding the complexity and nature of mining operations and applying that to the framing for our legal structure for mining. The “massive” part of the geological classification “massive sulfide” has nothing to do with size ( I believe it refers to the extraordinarily high concentration of sulfides compared to other types of ore, eg porphyry the dominant source of metals globally). VMS deposits the most prevalent form we have in Maine, are the second highest risk category among all geological designations and the public risk inherent in a given deposit derives from geochemistry not its size. Our Bald Mountain which has much less than 1 million tonnes of metals t is off the charts high public liability risk .No massive sulfide of any size anywhere in the world has ever been developed with higher arsenic and sulfide levels than exist at Bald Mountain. Reams and reams of scientific and technical documentation constituting “best knowledge” has been presented to JSCENR and to DEP for several years. It is incomprehensible that these very basic truths about VMS deposits are still avoided with determination by both DEP and by JSCENR when these should be the very focus of how we define “the public interest” in our legal framework for mining.
A deposit like our anomalous Bald Mountain that may now be well beyond any known proven technology for protecting against off site degradation of ground and surface waters may in time become economically and environmentally feasible. We need to build a legal framework that survives and works well over time as technology develops and understanding deepens. This is the perfect moment to undertake that work as the entire mining industry is in economic chaos and recovery is not expected until around 2020.
As you stripped out the entire contents of Ralph’ Chapmans well informed LD750 for a completely different purpose , I ask you to do the same with these two bills. Use them to repeal both the Mining on Public Lands Statute and the Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act and to create a mandate for a sructure involving a multidisciplinary super panel of mining expperts to give us the foundation elements of modern mining law from which we can build new and better law from scratch with participation by all stakeholders.
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd.A collaeague
Stonington, Maine 04681
207 367 5145
ADDITIONAL LINKS AND RESOURCES
Economic Geologist Dr. William Williams, who knows the Bald Moungain deposit well also wrote to both Joint Standing Committees to express his concerns about these two companion bills.
From: Bill Williams [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2017 9:37 AM To: ‘Bob Duchesne’ <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ‘Senator Tom Saviello’ <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: ‘Marvinney, Robert G.’ <Robert.G.Marvinney@maine.gov>; ‘Tartakoff, Daniel’ <Daniel.Tartakoff@legislature.maine.gov>; ‘Honorable Paul Mercer,Commissioner’ <email@example.com>; ‘Nicholas Livesay, Executive Director LUPC’ <Nicholas.Livesay@maine.gov>; firstname.lastname@example.org; Michelle.Dunphy@legislature.maine.gov; Ralph.Tucker@legislature.maine.gov; email@example.com Subject: RE: LD159 and LD160 Prohibiting Mining of Massive Sulfides Containing >1 million Tons of Metals Under Mining On Public Lands Statute & Under Maine Metallic Mining Mineral Statute
I write to you over my concern of a disconnect between public policy and science, which I believe proposed Acts LD159 and LD160 clearly manifest.
I am a consulting Economic Geologist with over 25 years of experience in mining exploration, development, and operations throughout the Americas and Europe. During my career, I evaluated the metals endowment of Maine and, in fact, I am one of the few geologists who have not only reviewed the Bald Mt. data and core, but have visited the site. In addition, I led the team that was granted the second permit under Michigan’s Part 632 mining regulation that was enacted earlier in this century. In sum, I consider myself qualified to make a statement on this matter. Please be advised that I am not contracted by anybody to advocate any position regarding the enactment of a revised mining statute in your state and do not have a personal stake in the matter as I reside in Brookline, MA. Again, I am merely concerned about the divergence of public policy, and therefore regulation, and science.
It is presumed that your efforts to draft meaningful mining regulations result in a balance of attracting mining investment, with the intent of a successful development, and environmental stewardship of such mining activities. If so, respect of scientific principles and clarity of purpose are fundamental in order to reach your goals as legislators and public-policy makers.
The term “massive sulfide” is a descriptive term only and is self-explanatory. In Maine, there are various occurrences of Volcanogenic Massive Sulfides (“VMS” in geological jargon), e.g., Bald Mt., Ledge Ridge, Mt. Chase, which terminology, in geological circles, is not only descriptive, but carries a genetic connotation as well. In these Acts, a well-defined geologic term is (re)defined as a “metal sulfide ore deposit……..that contains in total 1,000,000 tons or more of metallic minerals.” Not only is an established geologic term misconstrued, but a random size component is assigned to it as well. Furthermore, it is rare that any mining company would estimate the tonnage of metallic minerals; they would estimate the tonnage of ore, the grade of the commodity or metal, and thus the tonnage of commodity or metal. For instance, an ore deposit that contains 1,000,000 tons of 1% copper would contain 10,000 tons of copper metal; I am not aware of an example whereby the tons of the mineral(s) that contain copper are cited in such estimates, although a geologist could easily estimate that tonnage. Please be advised that such an estimate could very possibly exclude at least one deposit in your state.
Such a regulation is not consistent with nearly all mining regulations and statutes throughout the world. Redefining established geologic terms is not advisable, using the metric of tons of contained metallic minerals is not industry standard, and to specifically limit any metal-sulfide deposit based on an arbitrary tonnage of metallic minerals only creates an uncertainty for any potential investor(s); if an investor should discover and delineate an ore deposit greater than 1,000,000 tons of metallic minerals, do they lose their investment? If so, will they be reimbursed? Would the reimbursement be for expenditures or the value of the ore deposit? Please be advised that it is highly unlikely that any major mining company would even consider investing in metals exploration in Maine under these Acts given, for instance, a common hurdle for a copper project is 2,000,0000 million tonnes of contained copper (I worked for Phelps Dodge, now Freeport-McMoRan, in the past and this was our minimum size at that time; I do not suspect that number has decreased).
To any mining person, beyond the aforementioned technical issues, these proposed Acts would encourage an attempt to try to decipher its intent and likely would discourage exploration and development of metallic ore deposits.
Please feel free to contact me if you should want to discuss these issues.
Bill Williams, PhD