Guest post: Minerals can be Maine’s comeback kid

Posted on July 15, 2013 by Minerals Make Life

Maine’s tremendous natural resources have long been an asset to the state’s industry and citizens. Maine now has the opportunity to broaden its economic base, provide high-paying jobs and support a variety of local businesses with the development of one of its long forgotten resources— its metal and mineral wealth.

With more than $7 billion worth of mineral reserves identified at the Bald Mountain site in Aroostook County alone, new mining projects could provide an economic boom to a part of the state that has for too long struggled with high unemployment and financial stagnation.  Home to large deposits of copper, gold and zinc, Maine has the potential to provide the critical raw materials necessary for manufacturing countless high-tech electronics and automobiles, as well as critical national defense technologies and advanced energy components. The project also has the potential to create 700 well-paying jobs.

The prospect of renewed mining across Maine should encourage our nation’s industry leaders as they continue to grapple with securing the minerals critical to domestic industry. And many of our nation’s CEOs need some good news. Seventy-eight percent of chief executives of high-tech companies identified minerals and metals scarcity as a pressing issue in a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers worldwide study. In addition, 67 percent of chief executives in the sustainable energy industry and 73 percent in the automotive sector agree that minerals access is critical to their continued success. Maine’s minerals could go a long way in alleviating our nation’s grievous supply chain issues.

The 2012 passage of the Metallic Mineral Mining act by the state’s legislature is an important step to ensuring both economic success across Maine and the future of American innovation. With the support of the Aroostook County delegation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, this reform has paved the way for the much needed overhaul of the state’s regulatory procedures for new mine permitting. Currently, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is working hard to develop robust rules and regulations for the efficient, yet stringent process ahead for minerals mining in Maine. Once DEP reports back to the state legislature in early 2014, Mainers will be one step closer to realizing the benefits of minerals development.

But there is a long road ahead of us. While Maine is taking the appropriate steps to address state permitting issues, new mine projects will still have to endure the web of the federal permitting process. I encourage Congress to look at the great strides and economic opportunity ahead in Maine as an example of the bright future possible for the rest of the nation with development of an efficient regulatory framework for new minerals mining.

Ben Gilman, Senior Government Relations Specialist, Maine State Chamber of Commerce

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