Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Philip J. Nyhus

Second Advisor

R. Russell Cole

Third Advisor

Gail Carson


In 2012 the Maine State Legislature passed a bill directing the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to rewrite the regulations governing metallic mineral mining in Maine. The bill was introduced after pressure from Maine’s largest private land owner and timber company, J.D. Irving, Limited. The company has a lucrative mineral deposit on one of their landholdings in northern Maine and is interested in pursuing a mining development project. The bill aimed to streamline the regulatory framework around mining operations and make the permitting process more conducive to mineral development throughout the state. The 2012 Maine Metallic Mineral Mining Act shifts regulatory authority solely to the DEP and changes the permitting process and regulations governing metallic mineral mining. The Maine DEP and Land Use Planning Commission are currently in the process of rewriting these relevant rules to reflect a streamlined permitting process for metal mining development applications.

This study examines the economic, environmental, social and political implications of changes to mining regulations and increased mineral development. I examine the history and legacy of metal mining in Maine and compare two mining projects in other states to the proposed Bald Mountain Mine in Aroostook County, Maine to provide insight into the potential future impacts of open-pit mining in the state. A comprehensive overview of the political process and stakeholders involved in the passage of the new mining law highlights the specific benefits and concerns that would be associated with the reintroduction of metal mining as an industry in the state of Maine. This study also includes an analysis of the specific regulatory changes pursuant to the new 2012 mining law that allow for increased mining opportunities in the state. Finally, I discuss the critical lessons and issues around mining in Maine focused on water quality, regional economic impact, corporate accountability and remediation. If metal mining has a future in Maine, it must combine strong and clear environmental regulations with specific mechanisms for community involvement to ensure better overall outcomes. If the final rules governing metal mining do not reflect these two conditions, mining should not be pursued in Maine.


metals, minerals, mining, Maine

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