Letter to the editor

Maine’s laws and ordinances will not protect us from current mining threats

Thu, 03/16/2023 - 12:15pm

Canadian company Exiro Minerals recently acquired the right to explore property in a residential area of Warren for heavy metals and, after acquiring those rights, met last month with the Select Boards of Union and Warren to promote itself, identify a 30-square mile area for further exploration and attempt to assuage residents of their vociferous concerns about mining where they live.  Shastri Ramnath stated at the Union meeting that Exiro is interested in a much bigger area than the property along Crawford Pond where they have already acquired exploration rights.

In response to this current threat of mining in Warren’s, Union’s and Hope’s residential areas, you may have heard the false narrative that any concern is much ado about nothing.  The false narrative goes something like this:  ‘Maine already has the strictest mining regulations in the country and our towns already have state-of-the-art mining ordinances in place.’  The false narrative continues: ‘We want to work with the communities and we will go away if the communities aren’t with us.’  This is called “greenwashing”.  It is a deliberate strategy to encourage Mainers to ignore what is happening behind the curtain while foreign mining interests quietly acquire “exploration rights”, land and access to our landscapes and waterways to take advantage of the high demand for lithium and nickel.  They want us to look the other way as they proceed with what is a very real and imminent threat of environmentally hazardous commercial activity that will pollute the water we rely on for drinking, bathing and recreation.  

Mining companies have one interest only – extracting valuable minerals to make as much money as they can as quickly as possible.  They have no interest in our communities, improving our economies or providing local jobs.  Contrary to what they say, they do not want a “partnership” with us.  Exiro’s version of a partnership is to extract what it can from us and leave a toxic waste dump in our residential areas as they high-tail it out of here.  Let’s keep it real– there is no such thing as environmentally sound mining activity.  There may be better techniques than there used to be, but no mining activity is safe. 

You will hear that we already have ordinances that were put in place 30 years ago in response to the prior mining threats; but those ordinances do not prohibit disruptive exploration or mining.  They were sufficient then to deter mining.  With the price of lithium and nickel soaring, however, our ordinances will not dissuade miners from doing everything they can to get into our backyards and waters.  Moreover, our ordinances only impose safety and clean-up requirements.  Who is going to ensure that those ordinances are complied with?  Our Town staffs are community-minded, responsible and responsive public servants.  We love them, but they do not have the expertise or resources to ensure compliance with our ordinances.  It is naïve to think these foreign mining companies – which are trying to squeeze out every penny of profit -- will comply with these requirements out of their own good will and in “partnership” with us.  Mining companies factor into their cost of operation the legal penalties and compensation for injuries.  To them, our lives are a cost of doing business.  

Even if we thought our ordinances were strong, the disruption from drilling, extraction, processing and hauling would have an enormous impact on the serenity and beauty of our natural resources, which are, in fact, our most valuable and irreplaceable assets.  Moreover, there are several bills pending before our legislature that would dilute our existing environmental protections, which were already weakened under Governor LePage.

We live in and visitors come to Maine for a reason – it offers the most gorgeous natural beauty available in the world.  Do not let industrial profiteers lull you into complacency.  Talk to your neighbors, communicate with your Select and Planning Boards and write to Exiro to let them know your opposition to mining in our residential communities.

Stuart Finkelstein lives in Warren