Mining in Maine: Exploring Public Perceptions

copperInstitution: University of Maine
Sponsor: Maine Water Resources Research Institute through the Mitchell Center

Maine has a legacy of mining massive sulfide deposits for metals including copper and zinc. Understanding resident perceptions about metallic mineral mining, and potential impacts on the economy, quality of place, and natural resources in Maine is crucial as the legislature considers changes to the laws governing mining activities. The goal of this project is to identify perceptions on mining laws in Maine by using both qualitative and quantitative research. Phase one will include an analysis of secondary data (testimony, workshops and hearing). In Phase two we will conduct a resident survey to measure attitudes and beliefs towards mining in Maine.

The prospect of rising metal prices driven by growing world populations and affluence, and the existence of several rich deposits have renewed interest in metallic mineral mining in Maine and spurred revision of the strict regulations governing the establishment of mining operations. While there are currently no operational metal mines in the state, there were active metal mines in Maine through the 1970s.

Volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits are distributed throughout the state and are associated with volcanic belts stretching from the New Hampshire-Quebec border, through northern Maine and into New Brunswick, and along the coast. Geologically and chemically similar deposits have been successfully mined in both New Brunswick and Vermont. These deposits are attractive as mines because the hydrothermal processes involved in their formation concentrate valuable ore minerals including copper, zinc, lead, gold, and silver; however, they are also very high in sulfur and iron as well as other heavy metals that can be damaging to the environment and human health.

Team Members:

  • Sandra De Urioste-Stone, (Team Leader), University of Maine, School of Forest Resources
  • Amanda Albright Olsen, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Maine