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The Problems with Lithium Mining in Maine

LD 1363, a bill to loosen mining regulations in Maine, was moved forward by a 12-1 vote in support of the bill amongst the Environment & Natural Resources (ENR) Committee. The bill was created in the midst of the discovery of a lithium deposit in Maine to allow for the excavation of it.


Maine has one of the strongest mining laws in the United States. The law was passed in 2017 and was intended to protect Maine’s environment, for mining activities are extremely harmful to the environment. LD 1363 would only weaken Maine’s strong regulations. In the case of the recently discovered lithium deposit, wealthy landowners want to work their way through the legal system to be able to profit off of the deposit found on their property. It was determined that in order to extract the lithium, an open pit mine would be necessary. Open pit mining directly exposes harmful substances to the environment. For example, lead and arsenic, both toxic and harmful to ecosystems and the species in them. Furthermore, Maine commonly has high amounts of sulfides among its metal. With exposure to air and water, these sulfides can turn into extremely harmful acid. These substances, with the help of rain water and runoff, can very easily make their way into nearby ecosystems, causing harm to them.


In spite of the clear environmental red flags, environmentalists are divided. The reasons for this division is explained in the uses of lithium. Lithium is used for electric vehicle batteries, and solar and wind powered infrastructure, which are key components of combatting the climate crisis. However, court records reveal that the lithium extracted from this deposit in Newry, Maine is intended to be used for scientific glass, such as cellphone and computer screens.


In summary, the passing of LD 1363 to loosen mining regulations in Maine would cause more environmental problems than benefits. Although lithium is a valuable resource in combatting climate change, the intended purposes of the lithium found in the deposit would not contribute to electric vehicles and clean energy, but rather glass for cellphones. For Maine, loosening mining regulations isn‘t worth the harm it poses to the environmental.


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