May 16, 2022
Virginia Department of Energy
1100 Bank Street, 8th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219
Dear M. Skiffington:
Thank you for accepting public comments to the State Agency Component of Virginia’s Gold Mining Study. I am a Virginia resident in Fauquier County VA. I am concerned about the possibility of gold mining in VA. Since I have a summer home for 30 years in Cooke City/Silver Gate area of Montana, I know first hand the damage and danger to the public of mining gold.
The result of gold mining in the early 1900’s had plagued our area and remained unresolved until President Clinton heard our concerns when the Canadian Gold Mining Company, Noranda, planned to open the old mines and begin mining again. We live within one mile of Yellowstone National Park, and understood the damage already done and the possibility of the environmental danger to our drinking water and public health. But imagine the danger to Yellowstone. Is Virginia any less valuable?
Let me explain: left from old gold mining, also were enormous tailings that became an early Superfund site, but it was not handled correctly. The tailings, located just yards above Cooke City, were spread over an entire valley behind an earthen dam that leaked acid and chemicals down our local stream. No fish could live near that valley. The mines themselves were still leaking chemicals and a different stream was orange with poison. President Clinton and Congress bought out the Noranda Mine for $30 million with the caveat that they must clean up the old mine with the $30 million. Forest Service oversaw the cleanup with a local conservation organization, the Beartooth Alliance, leading the resistance to start with, and then monitoring the mine clean up until finished.
Then later Congress passed the Hard Rock Mining law that financed the EPA cleanup of the tailings in the following years. We now live safely downstream; the fish have returned, and it is now one of the pristine wild refuges for native cutthroat trout. The cost to our government was in the millions upon millions in this two- stage cleanup effort over 20 years. Please do not let this damage start in Virginia. It is not worth it! If this gold mining cannot be stopped, which is the best solution, then strict and thorough regulations to protect communities and the environment along with financial assurances that cover cleanup and full restoration and on-going maintenance are essential.
Yellowstone is worth more than gold! So is Virginia!
Marcia W. Woolman