PRESQUE ISLE — State officials are reviewing a multivolume application from a Canadian company interested in mining gold and silver on Bald Mountain, 15 miles west of Portage.
If the application is approved, ground work and construction of a processing facility could begin this summer, according to project officials.
NNM Resources Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Black Hawk Mining Inc. of Toronto purchased the mining rights to the property last year. The company is the latest in a series of mining companies that has expressed interest in either the gold and silver or copper in the deposit since it was discovered 20 years ago by Bangor geologist John Cummings.
The application has been filed with the Land Use Regulation Commission. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection must also review the proposal.
If the mine becomes a reality this time, it will employ about 75 people and have a $1.5 million annual payroll, according to the application.
Over the expected four-year life span of the mine, about $16 million will be poured into the local economy, the application said.
During the construction phase of the project, $6 million will be spent by the company for wages and $11 million in materials, equipment and engineering expenses, according to the application.
An information meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the Portage area, Richard Wardwell, the project coordinator in Maine, said this week. State regulatory agencies also will hold public hearings on the project, according to Catherine Varney of LURC.
Although the mine was initially thought of as mainly a copper deposit, NNM Resources plans to harvest the gold and silver layer, which is on top of the copper. The precious metals will be mined by using standard gravel pit methods with minimal drilling and blasting, according to the application.
The gold and silver ore will be extracted at a processing facility using a leaching process which involves mixing the ore with chemicals and water. As part of the process, the ore seperates from the rock. According to the application, the end product will be gold and silver bars.
The deposit is estimated to contain 35 million tons of zinc, copper, gold and silver.
The mine would be the first in the state to be approved under new rules that were developed in the early 1990s. Black Hawk owns a nickel mine in Knox, but depressed nickel prices have prohibited mining thus far. The price of gold also will play a part in determining when the mining starts in Aroostook County, Wardwell said.
Local and county officials have been supportive of the proposed mine.
“This unique project will allow the citizens of our region to benefit from the wise use of our natural resources,” wrote Roland “Danny” Martin, Aroostook County administrator, in a recent letter to LURC.
Martin also urged LURC officials to support the application by NNM Resource.
Aroostook County’s commissioners have obtained intervenor status in the project. To help the county pay for monitoring the project, the mining company will give the county up to $50,000.
After the mine is closed, the ground and surface water will be monitored for 30 years. The processing plant will be dismantled and the equipment sold, according to the application.