Access to clean drinking water sources is essential for Virginian and Virginia communities. Industrial metals mining, including gold mining, is notorious for polluting water resources.
Gold mining companies today use cyanide in their metal processing, leaving local communities vulnerable to potential contamination should anything fail during the mining or storage process. Of chief concern is the potential health and environmental hazards posed by waste material processing and the waste tailing ponds are susceptible to leaching and spills. Local communities and those downstream could be affected should tailings dams or mining waste depositories fail.
Virginia has hundreds of abandoned small-scale mines from the early 20th century that have left a legacy of mercury pollution along the Gold-Pyrite Belt, which stretches from Northern Virginia to the North Carolina border. Regulations have not been updated since the early 1900s, even though the mining process today occurs on a much larger scale.
Virginia’s lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and insufficient bonding requirements lay a dangerous foundation for an industrial-scale extractive industry to put public health and drinking water at risk.
Likely sites for new large-scale gold mines would be in close proximity to the James River and its watershed, which provides drinking water for 2.7 million people, brings millions of dollars into Virginia’s economy from commercial fishing, and attracts over 6 million visitors annually.
I have been informed that the Canadian metal mining prospecting company already pulled water in Buckingham from Sycamore Creek, a tributary to the James River, without any county oversight. With good reason, local residents are deeply opposed to a potential large-scale mine and the impacts it can have on their groundwater supply, environment, and health. I concur.