Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife impacts begin as soon as digging begins, especially large amounts of habitat destruction occur with open pit mining due to the immense size of some of the mines. Erosion and sedimentation resulting from disturbance of soil and waste can produce direct effects on fish (respiration and reproduction) and on photosynthesis in aquatic vegetation.(74)
AMD (Acid Mining Drainage) and heavy metals “may be detrimental” to wildlife, impacts typically are confined to 10 miles downstream, but widespread fish kill can occur with periods of high levels of runoff.(75) Heavy metals may impact the physiology, growth, reproduction, and mortality of species.(76) Heavy metals contamination is also present in the cells of plants growing over former mining sites and it has been shown that the concentration of heavy metals in the plants is dependent on the contamination level of the soil.(77)
74: “Extraction and Beneficiation or Ore and Minerals, Volume 4: Copper. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste, 2004.
75: “Acid Mine Drainage Prediction.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. December 1994.
76: Antti Lappalainen, Jouni Tammi and Annukka Puro-Tahvanainen. 2007. The effects of nickel smelters on water quality and littoral fish species composition in small watercourses in the border area of Finland, Norway and Russia.
Boreal Environment Research 12: 455-466
77: Hobbs and Streit. 1986. Heavy Metal Concentrations in Plants Growing on Copper mine spoil in the Grand Canyon, AZ. American Midland Naturalist 115(2): 277-281.
Lets just ban open-pit/mountaintop removal mining in Maine!
The Joint Standing Commitee on Environmental and Natural Resources is revisiting the flawed law allowing Pit mines to use the Waters of Maine as dumping grounds for mining wastes.
Here are some of the major substantive problems with the proposed Chapter 200 rules:
1. The rules allow unlimited groundwater pollution within vaguely defined “mining areas”. The rules specifically allow unlimited pollution of groundwater in “mining areas” (Section 2(GGG), P.6), a term which is still not clearly defined despite overwhelming public testimony requesting clarification. In its basis statement for the
rules, DEP admits that: “such groundwater will almost inevitably leave the area where the discharge occurs (Basis Statement, Part I, P. 129).”
2. The rules allow mines that are so dangerous and difficult to control, they would require active wastewater treatment forever (Section 9(D)(12), P. 22). Perpetual treatment greatly increases the risk of harm to the environment – because wastewater treatment plants fail at times. Perpetual treatment also increases the risk to Maine taxpayers, because no company will pay for wastewater treatment forever.
3. The rules do not require an upfront payment of financial assurance sufficient to cover full-scale mine cleanup. Instead, they allow complex calculations and recalculations of what a mine might cost to clean up if a company stopped mining and went bankrupt within the following year (Section 17(D)(1)(a), P. 46). This increases the risk that financial assurance will not cover the full costs of cleanup, which can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. The rules still do not require an independent, qualified professional to ensure the amount of financial assurance is sufficient.
4. The rules allow open pit mines next to almost all of Maine’s lakes and many of our most spectacular rivers (Section 20(B)(4)(h-j), P. 52). They require a small buffer for open pit mines of between ¼ mile and one mile for 346 of approximately 2700 Maine Lakes, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and Atlantic Salmon Rivers. The rest of our rivers and lakes would require no buffer for open pit mines.
5. The rules allow mines on and next to many public lands (Section 20(B)(3-4), Pp. 51-52), including Land for Maine’s Future lands and other designated lands described in 12 MRSA § 598-A. Despite strong objection, the BEP adopted the rules without even discussing the specific public lands where they were expressly allowing mines!
6. The rules provide no buffer for underground mines (Section 20(B), Pp. 51-52). The rules allow underground mines next to and under important resources including state and national parks. The rules also allow underground mines next to and under every lake and river in Maine.
7. The rules only allow municipal intervenors to conduct mining site visits as part of the permit review process, not citizen intervenors (Section 10 (G)(9), P. 33) . This severely limits the ability of the public to participate meaningfully in mining decisions.
8. The rules allow injection of drilling chemicals into soil, rock, and groundwater during exploratory mining (Section 3 D), P. 10). This was added as a “minor” change without discussion of what this practice is and any potential negative effects it could have.
Given the length and complexity of the rules, there are likely many more substantive problems than the list above.