Kate Cough: Lithium find prompts landowners to search for Earth-friendly solution

The Freemans say they will extract spodumene responsibly. They hope to allay local concerns, and keep the TV reporters at bay.
Mary Freeman, wearing a head lamp, smiles while looking at a piece of tourmaline
Mary Freeman, who owns the lithium-rich land along with her husband, holds up a piece of tourmaline. The couple has prospected for gems in the area for years. Photo courtesy Mary Freeman.

The Maine Monitor’s Oct. 24 report on the recent discovery of what looks to be the world’s richest lithium deposit in western Maine stirred up a number of subsequent news reports and even a proposed moratorium on mining applications in Newry, said Mary Freeman, in an email last month. Freeman and her husband Gary own the land where the deposit was found and have been actively prospecting for gems in the area for decades.

“We were contacted by many people, including TV reporters that wanted us to behave as if we’d just won the lottery,” Freeman wrote. “We saw media fearing toxic water, scarred mountains and even brine pools. The town of Newry went as far as proposing a moratorium on mining applications, but after we explained our interest was in quarrying spodumene, and not mining or processing lithium metal, the motion failed.”

The couple is slowly figuring out what to do with the find, said Freeman. State officials visited the site in late October but no decision has been made on what rules excavating the deposit would fall under, Michael Clark, mining coordinator at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said via an email.

Clark said he’d provided “internal feedback” to the department “but there has been no follow-up to date.”

Not much has changed in the couple’s personal life, Freeman wrote.

“The more we learn, the more we understand that a choice doesn’t have to be made between sparing the local ecology and extracting the spodumene. Both are achievable with careful planning and analysis.

“At this stage, we hope the fear mongering will die down so we can focus on optimizing solutions rather than on defense,” Freeman added.

Read the original story here: Staggering $1.5 billion lithium deposit discovered near Newry; excavating it poses a challenge

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Kate Cough

Kate Cough covers energy and the environment as a 2021 Report for America corps member, while also serving as the Monitor's enterprise editor. She was previously a reporter for The Ellsworth American before becoming a digital media strategist for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. Kate graduated with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Magna Cum Laude from Bryn Mawr College.
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