We’ve been busy! The Buckingham Supervisors created a committee to review the state funded study on the impacts of gold mining in Virginia, which was released on December 1, 2022.** That committee met once in January and next on February 13, 4:30-5:30, before the monthly Supervisor meeting. **Here are the highlights of the NASEM gold mining study.
County gold committee meeting
On February 13, the committee hosted Joe Lerch, Director of Government Policy for Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), and again, Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). The committee voted to recommend to the Supervisors to ask the Planning Commission to amend zoning code to prohibit metallic mining. At 11 minutes, Jordan Miles, the chair, announced this meeting may be the last! The meeting made no room for discussion of the proposed rights-based ordinance. We persist. We recorded that meeting, which you can view here:
We made pointed public comments at the Supervisor meeting, which started at 6 pm, following the committee meeting. All recordings, agendas and packets can be accessed here. The February 13 meeting is here:
Gold mining appeared on the agenda at the last minute – M12. Check out that short discussion at time stamp: 2:14:45
Santoshi Young and Baby Gracie, who make it a point of being the first public commenters were MIA. She started back up to work and just couldn’t juggle work & baby. They were missed. Hanuman makes a sizzling comment at 52 minutes. Mindy at 29:14. Heidi Dhivya is on at 1:01:45. Evan and Haris start at 38:45. We all adjusted our original comments. Others also commented about gold mining…
In response to that very limited and unsatisfying committee meeting, we wrote a letter to the Planning Commission, which was an expanded version of Mindy’s LTE to the Farmville Herald.
A cogent piece from the letter says:
The two ordinances together would be a stronger protection for our county and here are the reasons why:
The permission to do a zoning ordinance in this case is given to local municipalities by Virginia Code 15.2-2280. It says that any city or county can “regulate, restrict, permit, prohibit and determine… the excavation or mining of soil or other natural resources.”
This plan has the blessing of the County Attorney, Mr. Wright. The problem is that an ordinance like this would be at risk because it steps on federally-recognized corporate personhood rights that might be grounds for litigation. Why?
Courts have given corporations the right to be compensated for the loss of future profits if government restricts their activities. It is not unusual for corporations to sue localities and force their hands to change the zoning back to favor the corporation, based on the 5th Amendment “takings clause”. If Buckingham County has a zoning ordinance that results in the limiting of future profits of a company, the county can be sued.
On the other hand, the rights-based ordinance is not a land-use law. It doesn’t propose regulation of metallic mining in Buckingham County; rather it insists we protect the rights of the people and communities here to be free of toxic trespass. It’s not a new environmental law; it’s a civil rights law for all of us.
Fifth Amendment Takings Clause
Brian Carlton nails it in his Farmville Herald editorial on 2/24/23, the second page, third column where he quotes from Aston Bays’s CEO, Ullrich (the gold exploratory company): “If the county decides to remove that right (to mine), then that is a takings issue for the landowners to pursue.” …the ole takings clause… Here is page one of Brian’s astute coverage, “Questions raised about mining”.
For more clear understanding of just how outrageous is the long history of the courts giving more and more rights to powerful, wealthy corporations, check out the CELDF webpage: Corporate “Rights”. Indeed, wealth rules the world. And apparently they are doing a lousy job, which is why we are here with our humble rights-based ordinance, asserting our community rights to protect our beloved homes, our home planet. We have to think outside the box we’ve been put in, in order to find our way out of the very big mess we’ve made.