Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy
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8/31/22  4:41 pm
Commenter: Emily Francis, Southern Environmental Law Center

sharing materials submitted to NASEM

On June 18, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) submitted comments to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on the potential impacts of industrial gold mining in the Commonwealth and current deficiencies in Virginia’s mineral mining regulations. These comments were informed by a report submitted by Dr. Ann Maest regarding the potential environmental and public health impacts of gold mining.  

SELC’s and CBF’s comments submitted to NASEM, Dr. Ann Maest’s report, and a map of drinking water intakes downstream from Virginia’s gold-pyrite belt can be found under “Resources” on this webpage.  []

Virginia has no experience with modern, industrial-scale gold mining, and the Commonwealth’s current regulatory regime does not adequately protect communities and the environment from the risks associated with this industry. These regulatory gaps—both substantive and procedural—include:  

  • No comprehensive, state-level environmental review for mineral mining operations;  

  • No regulatory framework to implement environmental justice requirements;  

  • Lack of regulations for exploratory drilling activities;  

  • Deficiencies in water protections, including lack of regulation of cyanide and other chemicals used in gold mining, inadequate standards and practices to protect drinking water, lack of baseline sampling and monitoring requirements, issues with mixing zones, and potential noncompliance with sulfate groundwater criteria;  

  • Failure to account for naturally occurring radioactive materials in gold ore;  

  • Inadequate regulation of mineral mine impoundments;  

  • Sparse closure and reclamation planning requirements;  

  • Insufficient financial assurances;  

  • Failure to account for climate change; and  

  • Failure to consider indirect effects on communities.  

In light of this, we urged NASEM to consider whether Virginia is prepared to undertake this new industry given the significant risks associated with gold mining in the Commonwealth.  

Again, you can find those materials here. []

CommentID: 127478