The Farmville Herald has received a steady stream of letters from many of you. Its been awhile since the paper has initiated coverage on the prospects of new industrial gold mining, in Buckingham and the State of Virginia. While we applaud them for that, there are errors and misunderstandings that we find are openings to further fruitful discussion. This web post covers 2 published articles. We look in depth at the article about the proposed rights-based ordinance, which was released on August 12.
The article, dated August 10, covers the State Agency gold mining study work group meeting on August 3, 6 pm at the Buckingham Community Center and on-line. [Though this is not made clear in the article]. The titles: Citizens warn of mining impacts (page 1), and Mining – who’s listening to residents, citizens ask (page 2). Scroll down to the end for a brief discussion.
Rights-based freedom from
toxic trespass ordinance
The second article, by Meghan McIntyre, published August 12, covers comments from the residents and discussion by Buckingham Board of Supervisors on a gold mining ordinance at their monthly meeting on August 8, 6 pm. The titles are: Supervisors table mining ordinance (page 1). And – Mining: Supervisors want to wait on state study (page 2).
Ms McIntyre writes that Buckingham County residents will have to “ wait a bit longer to find out if gold mining will be allowed in their area”. On the contrary, there is nothing stopping a gold mining company from applying for permits now, and once current regulations are met, we could have state-approved gold mining, as there is no ban.
What Ms McIntyre is referring to is the Buckingham Board of Supervisors (BoS) discussion at the monthly meeting on August 8, where they decided to hold off on creating a county ordinance and wait for the state gold mining study to be completed, with the expectation that the General Assembly (GA) could make a decision (in early 2023) to ban industrial gold mining. Click here for coverage of that meeting.
There are no guarantees the GA will ban gold mining.
There is a possibility that the facts reported in the study will be interpreted by the GA that it is Ok to mine gold, with appropriate regulation. Thus we see the urgency in protecting ourselves now and not wait for the state.
The state could say regulations will protect us, but experience shows us the contrary. We think this is risky and unwise. Regulation of metallic mines has been tried the world over and is clearly not working. There is a long list of serious, proven, devastating problems with metallic mining that cannot be resolved by better regulations. We don’t want to mitigate those problems. We want to avoid them all together. So appropriate here is the wisdom of “an ounce of prevention is… worth way more than tons of cure.”
Think about it. The regulatory system is set up to issue permits to allow industry to mine – permitting industry to poison us. It actually legalizes allowable pollution instead of eliminating or stopping the harmful activities. We want to stop it cold. Do not trespass at all on our bodies, our water, air, land. Stop it at the entry level – the local special use permit is the very first permit of a long list of requirements, both state and federal.
The rights-based ordinance has been misrepresented to “place restrictions on mining”. Not at all. This is a civil rights law. The ordinance says we have a right not to be poisoned. We don’t want to be poisoned, which we know we would be, no matter what regulations are in place, that would lead to permitting the mining. We want to get out ahead of any permits that allow our poisoning and hence legalize our poisoning. It’s not ok to poison us a little bit – it’s not ok to poison us at all!
The ordinance claims our right to be free from the toxic trespass that comes with industrial metallic mining – not only gold mining. The directive of the state study is to focus on new gold mining, not new metallic mining, (though the Press Pause Coalition, did ask for the broader directive to cover all new metallic mining). A company could apply for permits, saying they would mine for copper, which uses the same destructive methods as gold mining. They could meanwhile also find gold, though they say they are mining for other metals. So! Do not count on the state to protect us from metallic mining, and thus gold mining.
This ordinance asserts our right to protect our air, water, and land. It asserts that it is the duty of our representatives to protect us. It empowers our representatives with a means to do so. And if they do not – they are violating our rights to a republican form of government guaranteed by the US and State Constitutions. So, this is a basic, key, essential point of the ordinance. We are doing our job as residents to be responsible, to stand up to protect our community by shining a light on a better way forward.
The paragraph about Aston Bay is inaccurate. Aston Bay is not a mining company, it is an exploratory drilling company. We don’t know when they began drilling, as they did not apply for permits to explore, thus the county has no records. The BoS changed the former law to allow them to continue to explore without permits. This was at the request of the aggregate mining business. This is very problematic, as they are drilling from 300 to 1,000 feet, impacting our groundwater, with no oversight and no county recordings. Also, a correction: Aston Bay does not own the land, they are leasing.
Supervisor Mathews stated that “we can’t make it (an ordinance) any more stringent than the state.” This rights-based bill is not a regulatory law, and thus cannot be “more stringent than the state” regulatory law. It is a civil rights law – a Community Bill of Rights. The state does its job to regulate. We are doing our job to assert our rights to not be poisoned. This is how and why this is a strong bill, that our representatives can feel good and strong about adopting.
This is innovative, outside the confines of orthodox legal thinking that is directly responsible for the global ecological crisis. When a community tries to protect itself by denying a permit and then could be sued by an offending corporation due to loss of future profits… how crazy is that – that we’ve allowed our legal system to do this to us over and over again. We can do an end-run around that madness by joining over 200 communities across America that have boldly enacted community rights-based ordinances.
This ordinance can and must be passed now. We don’t see a good reason to wait for the state. The state has been pushed by industry to do its bidding, placing corporate profit over community health and safety every time, with consequential devastation to the common good. This bill gives the supervisors a way to do their job of protecting us without conflicting with the state regulatory system.
It is our responsibility to convey this creative, effective way forward to protect community rights. We will all benefit.
State Agency gold mining
study work group
The August 10 article covers the meeting on August 3 of the State Agency gold mining study work group: Citizens warn of mining impacts (page 1), and Mining – who’s listening to residents, citizens ask (page 2).
Edits of note for this article include:
Heidi Berthoud does not say “there is an abandoned mine over Route 70 full of mercury” (there is no Route 70 in Buckingham). What she did say is there are over 70 abandoned gold mines in the county, full of mercury. If we can’t clean those up, why would we invite more?
“That new law requires several things before gold mining can take place.” The new law being referred to is HB2213, mandating a study on the impacts of industrial gold mining in Virginia. The “new law” is not about making requirements before gold mining can take place, it is a study. Thus it does not stop gold mining nor does it protect us, should a company become permitted to do gold mining. Here’s what HB2213 says:
§1. That the Secretary of Natural Resources, the Secretary of
Health and Human Resources, and the Secretary of Commerce
and Trade shall establish a work group to study the mining and
processing of gold in the Commonwealth. Such work group shall
include representation from the Virginia Council on
Environmental Justice established pursuant to Article 36 (§
2.2-2699.8 et seq.) of Chapter 26 of Title 2.2 of the Code of
Virginia as well as the following stakeholder groups: experts in
mining, hydrology, toxicology, geology, and public health;
environmental organizations; representatives of potentially
affected communities in localities with significant deposits of
gold; and residents of Native American communities in such
localities. The work group shall (i) evaluate the impacts of the
mining and processing of gold on public health, safety, and
welfare in the Commonwealth; (ii) evaluate whether existing air
and water quality regulations are sufficient to protect air and
water quality in the Commonwealth from the mining and
processing of gold, including evaluation of the impacts of
different leaching and tailings management techniques on
downstream communities; (iii) evaluate whether existing
bonding, reclamation, closure, and long-term monitoring of sites
for such mining or processing are sufficient; and (iv) report its
findings to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy no
later than December 1, 2022.