Op Ed, LTE: Why wait to protect Buckingham County?

Aug 26, 2022 | Community News, Letters to the Editor, Metallic Mining, News, Top Stories | 0 comments

The Farmville Herald is steady with the coverage on gold mining! Mindy Zlotnick and Chad Oba speak out. Check out a pdf of 2 letters in the August 24, 2022 publication here. Read another article by Finn Pollard in the Richmond Times Dispatch – scroll for it.

Why wait to protect Buckingham County?
Op Ed by Mindy Zlotnick

I am responding to the article written by Meghan McIntyre on August 12 titled “Supervisors table mining ordinance.”  She 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 discussion on waiting for the State study to be completed and the expectation that the General Assembly (GA) will ban industrial gold mining. 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 proposed rights-based ordinance, now before the supervisors, has been misrepresented to “place restrictions on mining”. Not at all. This is a civil rights law, which protects our freedom from toxic trespass, our 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. 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! 

It is the state’s responsibility to regulate mining. To be clear, this ordinance does not talk about regulation. Rather, it focuses on protecting fundamental rights against violation by industrial extraction of metals.  It bypasses the entire regulatory system by asserting the authority of the County to protect said rights by exercising the voice of local community self-government.

The ordinance claims our right to be free from the toxic trespass that comes with industrial metallic mining, not only gold mining. The HB 2213 state study is limited to gold mining. The rights-based ordinance provides wider protections.

On 8/8, the Board was concerned that they can’t make a law any more stringent than what the state sets.  This, though, is ONLY in regards to REGULATIONS, not the protection of our rights. We urge the Board to move on this now and set up protections preemptively, BEFORE a gold mine comes knocking at the door.  The county door is the first door they have to knock on in order to get the local Special Use Permit for further state and federal permitting.  With strong protective measures in place, perhaps they will not come knocking at all. 

SO…. why wait?

Expert to address Buckingham Ordinance questions

Ben Price, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF,  celdf.org/about-celdf/ ) community organizer, will appear via zoom at the Union Grove Baptist Church this Saturday, August 27. Almost 900 residents have signed the petition to the Board of Supervisors for the rights-based Ordinance to protect Buckingham from the dangers of metallic mining pollution. 

Administrator Karl Carter and County Attorney E.M. Wright, and Board members, have been invited to speak  with Mr. Price to answer their concerns regarding this process. When presented with the danger to the County from metallic mining, Board members had agreed to explore a gold mining ordinance and expressed that ‘something needs to be put in place’. Their decision now is to wait for the VA General Assembly to act on HB2213 (https://tinyurl.com/2bryttce). 

Is that really the best choice for us here in Buckingham County? Find out this Saturday! Submit your questions to info@vacommunityrights.org,  and come to Union Grove Baptist Church, 25220 Shelton Store Road, Buckingham at 3 pm on August 27th  to talk with the expert on Community Rights.

Letter to the Editor by Chad Oba
Friends of Buckingham

Press pause on mining

Appalachian Voices intern Finn Pollard had his LTE on gold mining in the Richmond Times Dispatch on Tuesday, August 23, 2022:

Six years ago, Aston Bay Holdings — a metals mining and prospecting company — began exploratory drilling in Virginia’s Piedmont region. The company still is looking for locations with concentrated gold in Buckingham County; and copper, zinc, and lead in Pittsylvania and Campbell Counties along the Gold-Pyrite Belt, a geological area that spans from Fairfax County to the North Carolina border.

This quiet development should raise major concerns for local communities, and those downstream of the operations, including people in Richmond. The last time gold mining occurred in Virginia was more than 80 years ago.

Despite advancements in mining technology, there has not been a change in Virginia’s guidelines to reflect those developments. The commonwealth’s large-scale metals mining regulations are not adequately equipped to address industrial metals mining.

Modern industrial metal mining is done with earthen-built dams, cyanide and explosives. The explosives splinter the earth so the metal can be excavated. Water and cyanide are mixed to separate the dirt from the metal. Once the few ounces of metal are extracted, the toxic mixture then sits in a big pit held up by a dam made of earth — forever.

Mining can affect the people, environment and economy around mine sites. Pollutants go into the air and water, and they often affect the quality of drinking water. In Virginia, 3 million people living downstream from the Gold-Pyrite Belt could be impacted by potential mining.

We need transparency and time to understand potential impacts of large-scale metals mining in Virginia. We need to press pause to fully examine the situation.

It is imperative that the public’s voices and opinions are heard, while there still is a chance to do so. Email goldstudy@energy.virginia.gov to express concerns before the comment period ends on Sept. 30. To learn more, visit: presspauseva.org


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