Staggering $1.5 billion lithium deposit discovered near Newry

The find, one of the richest on Earth, could test Maine’s 2017 metallic mining laws, considered the strictest in the nation.

NEWRY — The richest known hard rock lithium deposit in the world lies a few miles northeast of the ski slopes of Sunday River and not far from Step Falls, where swimmers can wade in shallow pools formed by hundreds of feet of cascading granite ledge. 

Smaller deposits have been known in Maine for decades, but this recent discovery, just north of Plumbago Mountain in Newry, is the first to have a major resource potential. 

And that potential is staggering: At current market prices, the deposit, thought to contain 11 million tons of ore, is valued at roughly $1.5 billion. Measuring up to 36 feet in length, some of the lithium-bearing crystals are among the largest ever found. 

Formed three miles underground during the cooling of granite magma, the crystals rose to the surface over hundreds of millions of years as the mountains above them crumbled and eroded. Now partially exposed, the deposit is estimated to have a higher percentage lithium content by weight than any other in the world.

“This is going to be a very important source of lithium in the future,” said Dr. William “Skip” Simmons, a mineralogist at the University of New Orleans and co-author on a recent paper describing the findings. A more detailed sampling and analysis needs to be done, said Simmons, but the crystals are undeniably “world-class.”

Lithium is prized because it is lightweight and can store lots of energy, making it an important component in batteries for electric vehicles and as reservoirs for excess energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels. Demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to grow between five- and 10-fold by the end of the decade, and the world must ramp up production quickly to move away from fossil fuels.

This find could contribute to that. But under Maine’s recently enacted mining laws, it’s unclear whether it will ever be extracted.

“We know that the Maine mining laws are such that there’s not one single active mine in Maine,” said Mary Freeman, who owns the land with her husband, Gary, a co-author on the paper describing the find.

“We’d have to get clarification from the state,” said Freeman, when asked whether the couple planned to apply for a mining permit. “They don’t have an area of the rule that explains this kind of work.”

Maine’s metallic mining law was designed to protect the state’s natural resources and keep its water clean. But the state, and its residents, will also need lithium-ion batteries to store energy from wind and solar panels, and run electric vehicles.

Yet lithium is a metal, and state regulations passed in 2017 prohibit mining for metals in open pits of more than three acres, which would be the only way to cost-effectively extract lithium at Plumbago North. 

“I don’t know of any underground and manganese or lithium mines in the world,” said Dr. John Slack, a geologist who co-authored a separate upcoming paper on critical minerals in Maine. 

“Because those metals have a relatively low cost, in terms of their concentration per ton or per ounce, you need to excavate large volumes of rock cheaply in order to economically and profitably produce the metal you’re interested in.”

What’s the right level of regulation? 

Commercial mining has resulted in a long list of disasters, from collapses and explosions to rivers dyed a sickly shade of orange.

Some of the gravest environmental concerns revolve around mining for base metals — such as copper, lead and zinc — which often occur in bands of rock rich in iron sulfides. When exposed to air or water, iron sulfides create sulfuric acid. And once the production of sulfuric acid has begun, it can be difficult to stop, polluting waterways for decades, a phenomenon known as acid mine drainage. 

Indeed, Maine’s most famous mines are perhaps better known for their aftermath than what they produced. 

In the late 1960s, the Callahan Mining Corporation was given permission to drain a 75-acre coastal estuary in the town of Brooksville and turn the area into an open-pit mine. The company extracted roughly 800,000 tons of copper and zinc before flooding the area, turning it into Goose Pond.

The former mine is now a Superfund site, and a 2013 study by researchers at Dartmouth College found widespread evidence of toxic metals in nearby sediment, water and fish. Cleanup costs, borne by taxpayers, are estimated between $23 million and $45 million.

With events like this in mind, lawmakers, environmental advocacy groups and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection crafted the 2017 metallic mineral exploration and mining law. It passed after years of deliberation and several failed attempts, and is considered one of the most stringent mining laws in the nation.

The law bans metallic mineral mining in, on or under public lands, lakes, outstanding rivers, coastal wetlands and high-value freshwater wetlands. Open-pit mines of more than three acres aren’t allowed, nor are mines that would require treatment of toxic wastewater in perpetuity or the ponds storing wet mine wastes.

In an effort to avoid what happened in Brooksville and elsewhere, the law also requires companies to set aside money for cleaning up or treating any environmental contamination for at least 100 years after the mine’s closure.

In the four years since the law’s passage, only one company, Wolfden Resources Corp. of Canada, has attempted to go through the process. Earlier this month the company withdrew its application for a zoning change required to begin the Department of Environmental Protection permitting process after state commissioners moved to deny the application, citing numerous deficiencies. 

Wolfden CEO Ronald Little told commissioners the company planned to submit a new application after hiring a consultant more familiar with Maine’s regulations. 

Several geologists applauded the 2017 law, but said it means Maine’s lithium and manganese deposits (Aroostook County’s manganese reserves are thought to be the largest in the country) may never be extracted as long as open-pit mining is banned. 

“It starts being extremely expensive if you do underground mining. So it’s just not a viable way to produce a deposit like (Plumbago North),” said Simmons, the University of New Orleans mineralogist.

But those reserves also would not present the same type of potential environmental issues as Wolfden’s proposed project on Pickett Mountain and other base metal sulfide deposits in Maine, such as Bald Mountain. That’s because the Plumbago North deposit does not occur in, or contain, sulfide-rich rocks, said Slack and Simmons. Mining for lithium there would instead be similar to quarrying for granite or gravel.

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Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on October 30, 2021 at 10:45am

Yes Penny, and so it goes......... 

Unless  we create local Ordinances. which are currently community law, to prevent these activities of destructive behavior from corporations, local, national or international.

Community laws are as valid as state or federal laws. In that if we get there first for a very protective measure, the state and federal must follow our standard. If they do not, then  they are viewed as restricting or removing our rights. Generally, in the past, State and Federal exclude imposition of Lower standards, while imposing their new statute upon those communities that to not implement protective ordinances. 

And, So it goes......... People not standing up for their communities, bowing down under false pretenses imposed upon them by local, state, federal and corporate governances, under the cloaks of darkness.


Comment by Penny Gray on October 29, 2021 at 6:27pm

And so it goes, and so it goes.

And so shall we soon, I suppose...

Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on October 27, 2021 at 10:56pm

Lindsay Newland Bowker

6:51 PM (4 hours ago)
to Beth, Tilak
The worst thing NRCM & the environmental coalition can do right now is stand its ground on the unworkable present statute against the implications of this apparently large and possibly economically viable  lithium disovery even as a de novo ( "geenfields") project..
 All of the concerns for environmental protection intended and attempted in our present legislation by its NGO framers can be met with better, better informed statutory language but it wil take real experts in mining and in mining law to write that. Tilak Grinigie is one such person.
 The person ( or panel)  should be retained by the Governor ( not by DEP or LUPC and certainly not by any NGO because these entities are not qualified to write or oversee model mining legislation.
Any responsible developer of other successful pegmatite lithium mines can afford and has access to technology   that can deliver on a responsible development  of any economically viable mineral deposit.
Not to mention the public image of environmentalists blocking an alkali metal essential  for the green transition.
If this deposit goes forward under environmentally responsible legislation in Maine it should still have the level of  protection pf ground water t which all other enterprises are subject  and the LUPC's existing zoning should mining no exceptions in parcels zoned no mining no sub district rezoning for mining or even mining explorations that cant deliver on on all the safeguards  attending the no mining LUPC designation.
A revamp by folk who actually know mining and who actually know the pitfalls of  mining law   will also better handle any other project through Maine's doors in a way that is exemplary for an entire world in need of a model "Responsible Mining Law"
Maine might even be able to get federal funding  for that framework development work  which should report to the Governor's office because USA needs it including Maines excellent LUPC structure for responsible  management of our national pubic lands. Our Senator King can be our voice in seeking that funding.
We can do this.  We can be he light for the whole world on the world's first responsible mining law.  I am happy to assist the Governor in  putting together an invited bidders list  to form he panel to develop[  workable and responsible model  law for  us and for the world.
No one but the NGO authors of our terrible law ever called it the best or strictest regulation n America.
Just sayin"
 Lindsay Newland Bowker, Principal Compiler & Analyst

World Mine Tailings Failures

Comment by Eric A. Tuttle on October 26, 2021 at 8:36am
From a few people I have assisted / communicated with in the past

It is a metal therefore subject to Maine's poorly written poorly conceived GO authored mining statute.  Maine only gets silo reporting on anything to do with mining ..Maine news media only cites Nick Bennett author of or wacky statute (open pit prohibited, dry stack only on tailings.
John Slack promoting this one and also believes Maine may have significant platinum deposit.
Our advocacy has long been a moratorium on the 2017 law and new authorship under the guidance of an expert panel.
Maine has a unique and appropriate landuse master plan for the unincorporated northern territories once the kingdom of pulp and paper companies .No permit needed for exploration ( also a mistake) but to advance to advanced exploration must first go through  the Land Use Planning Commission for a zoning change if in an area where mining prohibited or get a confirmation that presently presently zoned to allow .mining.  Local zoning law supercedes otherwise.  Any town or city can govern where mining allowed and whether,
Maine is under the delusion that its legal frameowrk has all the controls needed  to support a "sub district" zoning chnage.  That following its prescriptive framework would eliminate any impacts outside the mining area.( even though it allows on site groundwater contamination!!!!!)
I was so hoping that Maine would become a model for "responsible Mining Law" that does have achievable ground and surface water protections  and forest/wetland  preservation  from vetting of a site through closing.  The political process doesn't seem capable of delivering such a structure, though especially with NGO's promoting unworkable uninformed legal frameworks.
Any deposit like this anywhere in the world actually being mined that you know of.?
Against a standard of "responsible mining" not every deposit is mineable but we believe any deposit within prevailing hurdle grades and under  the development control of an experienced responsible miner ( there are actually some of those)  can contribute to the world's mineral without a local sacrifice zone.
Maine just missed the boat by adopting a poorly informed  NGO written approach that sets us up now for travesty if this is a USA needed source of lithium that actually can be responsibly mined.
Hold on to your hat!!!
Lindsay Newland Bowker, Executive Director

World Mine Tailings Failures

+1 207 367 5145


Hi Lindsey,
It has been a while. I hope you are surviving the pandemic adequately. I expect to continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, which is fine for most of the work that I do, although field work and lab work have been severely impacted.
Lithium and other critical mineral commodities raise a lot of important and perplexing issues. As you note, most renewable energy sources rely on mineral commodities mined from the earth. Thus, our path to a greener future is paved in minerals. The challenge is to find a way to supply our green future without harming the environment. Lithium is a key component of rechargeable battery technology. Not only is it essential to electric and hybrid cars, but it is also important for storage of electricity from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. At present, large scale deployment of battery storage to carry us through the night and non-blowing winds is cost prohibitive.  More R&D on battery technology is needed to drive down costs.
As you note, much lithium currently comes from brines, but a significant portion also comes from pegmatites. It appears that currently identified resources are sufficient to last for many decades into the future. However, demand will continue to rise as we make the shift way from fossil fuels. An additional issue for the United States is security of supply. Because most brines are being produced in South America and a lot of pegmatite lithium is being produced in Australia - both regions with which we have good relations. In contrast, China produces and refines much of the world's rare earth elements, some of which are important to permanent electromagnets used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, etc. Thus, the supply of these critical minerals is far less secure.
In terms of future lithium mining of pegmatites in Maine, a lot of uncertainty remains. Just because a pegmatite contains lithium minerals, does not mean that it is economically viable. Identify a viable deposit, considerable exploration would be needed. This would likely take the form of exploratory drilling around known occurrences and possibly regional exploration programs using a combination of geophysical techniques and regional sampling for geochemical analysis to identify targets for drilling. In other words, a new mine would not spring up overnight. Whether a mine will be an open pit or underground will depend on the geometry of the ore body and it depth of burial. I do not think that you can make assumptions about mining method until a viable ore body has been identified. Further, most mining companies seek a reliable, longer term source of revenue, so they will have cut-offs in terms of size and grade. Thus, small deposits no matter how high grade will likely never be mined. However, a large, low grade deposit may eventually have a future as a mine if low supply drives prices high enough.
On the positive side for lithium pegmatite mining, their environmental characteristics are far more acceptable than mines for other commodities. Pegmatites tend to have low sulfide contents, which make their mine wastes less likely to generate acid, which generally will reduce their human health and ecological risks. They still will have significant volumes of mine waste that will need to be managed, albeit with fewer challenges with respect to chemical risks.
All of this gets us to the conundrum  that society faces. How and where shall we get the mineral resources that we need for a greener future? No single country is self sufficient in the mineral resources that its people and economy needs. Some are better endowed than others, but all rely on some imports. If we rely on a global supply of mineral resources for a greener future, what is our obligation for responsible sourcing? Avoiding conflict minerals and countries that use forced labor is a no-brainer. However, sourcing our resources from countries that do not enforce that same high environmental standards that we do is, in essence, outsourcing or exporting our pollution to places that are more vulnerable. I consider this to be both immoral and unethical. The NIMBY mentality is easy to understand from a local perspective, but how can you rationalize it in a global context when we rely on resources from areas that have laxer regulations. What is our obligation to feed global supply chains when we find our neighborhood well endowed in a critical mineral? It is easy to swear off conflict diamonds or gold sourced from critical habitats or produced using mercury because these commodities do not form that backbones of society. How many people are willing to live an iron-free, aluminum-free, or copper-free life? I suspect none. I am biased (being a scientist), but I feel that an acceptable paths forward requires sound science and bringing all stakeholders together. While I generally support the mission of many national and international environmental stewardship NGOs, I am disappointed by their practice of opposing individual proposed mining projects without identifying acceptable alternative sources. I think the world would be a better place if they would engage in helping to identify where our mineral resources are sources to ensure a sustainable future.
I guess I apologize for rambling on. You have touched on some issues that I have been wrestling with for quite a while. I suspect that I may have not answered your questions directly. 
Robert (Bob) R Seal
US Geological Survey
954 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr.
Reston, VA 20192
Comment by Willem Post on October 25, 2021 at 5:39pm
My two comments on Watt is up with That


This is wonderful.

CCC, a bunch of RE idiots trying to pull the wool over the eyes of innocent, gullible lay people, got caught lying and obfuscating big-time.

CCC, which advises UK PM Johnson, aka, the UNRULY MOP, used 7 days of low wind in 2050, whereas the low-wind days were 65 in 2021, and 78 in 2016.
CCC wanted to make wind look extra, extra good.

More low-wind days means vastly greater CAPACITY, MW, of instantly available, reliable, low-cost, traditional power plants, which must be staffed, fueled, ready to operate, in good working order, as demanded by the UK grid operator, to fill in any wind (and solar) shortfalls; the UK has LOTS OF DAYS without sun, throughout the year.

Initially, CCC was obstructing the public release of its report to THE UNRULY MOP
CCC was ordered by the Court to release the report to the public.

Are you f….g kidding me?
We are talking hundreds of millions of small folks spending $TRILLIONS EACH YEAR, to “save the world”, and CCC is blatantly lying about the feasibility and cost!
These CCC people should be drawn and quartered.


BTW, every wind turbine draws significant electricity from the grid, whether it is producing or not.
Great graph.

It clearly shows, the capacity’s factor of wind very often is less than 10%
The average CF is about 30%.

It is important to note wind power is the cube of wind speed 

In addition, at very low CFs, say 3 to 4%, with winds at 4 mph and less, the wind turbine is producing about as much as it is consuming, i.e., no net feed to the grid. Yikes

The graph shows a lot of red at low CFs, meaning onshore winds are frequently very weak.

The RE clowns at CCC are of-the-charts fabricators of lies.

They should be drawn and quartered

Comment by Penny Gray on October 25, 2021 at 8:18am

Wolfden isn't giving up.  Plan on more superfund sites.

Comment by Kenneth Capron on October 24, 2021 at 1:44pm

NCRM has their priorities bass-ackward. They declined to support a solar waste recycling bill this year. And they oppose the NECEC despite the co2 free source. Idiots.

Comment by Art Brigades on October 24, 2021 at 12:12pm

Verrrrrrry interesting!  

The new mining law was largely a legislative project of NRCM.

Mining stuff like zinc and copper is bad. But now mining a substance that sustains wind and solar power? 

Hmmm. Let's see what NRCM say about this...

Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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