The East Farmington town board discussed possible new ordinances relating to the expansion of the North Forty Resources mine in a meeting on March 19.
The discussion focused mainly on a report put together by hydrologists from Cedar Corporation, which was hired by the board to perform a pre-mining hydrogeological investigation.
Specifically, the board discussed the placement of testing wells on site at the new expansion, the frequency of water quality tests and mining depth, in addition to smaller concerns such as hours of operation and lighting.
No major decisions were made at the meeting as the board agreed further discussion with hydrologists was needed to get a clear picture of the situation. They were especially concerned with the mining depth of the new mine and whether or not it could be set below the water table.
“I just don’t think we should be tinkering in the water,” said board chairman Dennis Cottor. “That’s just how I feel about it.”
Differing opinions abounded at the meeting, with the civilian mining committee being represented by Dan Guenthner. He said in the months leading up to this point the committee had hoped to have more input from other hydrologists and mining experts.
“We had experts we wanted to bring forward,” he said. “But this whole process was hurried along.”
Guenthner said the board should have leveled the playing field and given more time and access to the committee.
“As a member of that committee I felt like a lot of our recommendations were held at bay or shot down,” he said.
Guenthner is worried about the possibility of contamination that comes along with any mine. He said the report delivered to the board by Cedar Corp. was not in depth enough.
“The report is held up as this deeply researched, fact finding mission,” he said. “We didn’t even scratch the surface on a lot of this.”
Peter Olson represented North 40 Resources at the meeting. He said overregulation can be detrimental to an operation like this should ordinances reach too far.
“As you take away hours of operation and setbacks and depth and required testing, you also need to factor in, ‘can this business continue to profit under all of these restrictions,’” he said. “So if the town would like more of these recommendations followed, there needs to be room for compromise.”
If no compromise can be found and the board and citizens continue down the same path, board chairman Cottor said the regulation of the mine can be handed over to county or state facilities.
“If we’re just going to sit here and spin our wheels, we might as well just throw in the towel now,” he said.
No one on the board seemed to relish that idea.
“If we choose to let it go and you have the state agencies regulating things, they’re not going to have the personal concern that we are,” said board clerk and treasurer Debbie Swanson. “We need to work something out. Not everybody is going to be happy, but it will be something we can feel good about. We’ll have protected our water and done due diligence to make sure everything is done to the best of our knowledge.”