There is little doubt that as our population grows and the modern technology we rely on continues to advance that our need for critical minerals will grow too. While BHA recognizes that mining for critical minerals is necessary, we also believe that mines should be sited responsibly and that, when they exist, opportunities to reduce mining pressure on public lands and waters, priority landscapes, and intact wildlife habitats should be explored. The Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act introduced by Sen. Angus King (I - ME) and cosponsored by colleagues Sen. Richard Burr (R - NC) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-NV) would help reduce the pressure for new mines by encouraging reprocessing of old mine waste and recycling of other products of mining.
Over the years Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has worked diligently to mobilize the voices of our members to protect priority landscapes like Bristol Bay and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from poorly sited mining proposals. If allowed, each proposal would risk irreversible damage to these fragile landscapes and the wildlife that depend on them.
Closer to home, the New England Chapter has been tracking the proposed Wolfden mine in Maine. The proposed mining site is located in the headwaters of the Penobscot River and upstream from the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. This watershed, including the area of the proposed mine, is designated as Critical Habitat for the federally endangered Atlantic salmon and supports an excellent native brook trout and landlocked salmon fishery. In the immediate vicinity of the proposed mine are three designated “State Heritage Fish Waters”, indicating that they contain wild brook trout populations that have not been stocked with brook trout or any other fish for at least 25 years. Last year BHA volunteers in Maine worked to update signage to improve public awareness of this prized resource.
In August 2020, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation collaborated to release recommendations for critical mineral development in the document Critical Minerals Report: A Conservation Perspective. The first recommendation was:
"Before seeking new sources of raw materials, prioritize and fully utilize alternatives, such as recycling, substitutes to critical minerals, reprocessing old mine waste piles and ash material, and engineering advancements to reduce use and need for new mines."
With the introduction of S.1918, the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act, Sen. King is taking steps to put this recommendation into practice.
“Prioritizing and utilizing alternative energy sources, including recycling, substituting and repurposing critical minerals, reduces our reliance on new extraction which in turn protects healthy habitats for hunting, angling and other recreational opportunities,” said John Simoneau, New England Chapter Secretary-Maine Chair of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “BHA thanks Sen. King and his colleagues for introducing an innovative approach to the growing demand for critical minerals.”
You can read the whole press release from Senator King’s office here.