Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
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8/21/22  4:31 pm
Commenter: Katie Whitehead

Questions & Comments re August 26th SAC mtg. and draft doc Existing State Permitting Processes

Katie Whitehead

August 21, 2022

Submitted to and to


Questions and Comments Regarding

  • August 26, 2022 meeting of the State Agency Component of Gold Mining Study Work Group (SAC) and
  • draft document titled Existing State Permitting Processes Relating to the Mining and Processing of Gold


  1. The Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website provides no agenda for August 26, 2022 meeting of the State Agency Component of Gold Mining Study Work Group (SAC). The agenda link goes to the draft document posted on August 19th and titled Existing State Permitting Processes Relating to the Mining and Processing of Gold. What else is on the agenda? Will the committee discuss its scope of work? Develop an outline for its report? Assign drafting responsibilities to committee members according to their areas of interest and expertise?\66\36775\Agenda_NRG_new_v1.pdf


  1. Does SAC have a Statement of Task? Is there a consensus among committee members regarding the committee’s work and report? Was the Draft Scope of Work/Statement of Task proposed at the committee’s meeting on February 25, 2022 adopted or rejected or officially acted on in some way?
  • The DOE webpage states that SAC "will focus on local equity and environmental justice issues, and environmental and human health concerns of the local community."
  • The Draft Scope of Work/Statement of Task proposed February 25, 2022 states that SAC "will provide support and assistance to the NASEM2 component of the HB2213 work group via white paper submissions, by attending joint meetings with NASEM, and by holding meetings in and around Buckingham County and other potentially impacted communities, while placing a particular focus on:
  1. Environmental justice concerns of potentially impacted communities
  2. Environmental and human health impacts to potentially impacted communities
  3. Detailing existing state permitting processes, comparing them with processes in other jurisdictions, and determining if current regulations are adequate to address impacts to potentially impacted communities"


  1. Is the draft Existing State Permitting Processes document intended to be different than the summary assigned to the NAS in the first part of item #2 in the Statement of Task for the NAS Committee on Gold Mining in Virginia?

“ 2.   Summarize the Commonwealth of Virginia’s existing regulatory framework for gold mining and processing sites (for example, bonding, reclamation, closure, and long-term monitoring) and compare to other states with current or recently closed gold mining operations. This summary will include a discussion of relevant air and water quality regulations, as well as Chesapeake Bay watershed protections.”


  1. What, if anything, does this SAC State Permitting Processes draft tell us that state agency representatives on the committee didn’t know a year ago?


  1. According to the DOE website, SAC’s work “will focus on local equity and environmental justice issues, and environmental and human health concerns of the local community.” There is no single “local community.” DOE seems uniquely positioned to identify the many local communities impacted or potentially impacted by metal mining – including historic, present and future mining. Local issues and concerns cannot be reported to the legislature without first identifying localities, informing people of potential impacts, and soliciting their informed participation.


  1. Is the first DOE sentence in the draft intended as a conclusion drawn by the committee - a conclusion that current regulations are adequate? (“Virginia Energy’s Mineral Mining program provides for the safe and environmentally sound production of Virginia’s non-fuel minerals.”)


  1. The draft uses the terms “suitable,” “minimize,” and “extent feasible.” Is the meaning of these terms solely dependent on the judgement of agency staff - the view and opinion of individual permit reviewers and site inspectors? We need criteria provided by technical experts to ensure regulations are sufficiently protective.

(“Before a mine license and permit are issued, applicants must provide suitable operations plans, drainage and sediment control plans, groundwater impact assessments, and reclamation plans for the proposed mine operation. 

“Operations plans must describe how the mineral will be mined and processed, and how waste will be disposed of while minimizing the effect on the surrounding environment.  Regulations require the operations plan to facilitate integration of reclamation with mining operations according to the special requirements of individual mineral types. Operators are required to conduct mining such that the amount of disturbed acres are minimized, and reclamation is to be conducted simultaneously with mining to the extent feasible. Regulations further require that mining activities must minimize the impact on water quality and quantity.”)


  1. The draft refers to “the special requirements of individual mineral types.” What are the “special requirements” of gold mining and processing operations? The draft provides no specifics on gold mining.


  1. The draft says nothing about critical omissions in the current regulations. For example,
    1. Required Environmental Impact Statement
    2. A means of accurately determining reclamation cost per acre and adjusting this cost over time
    3. A requirement that reclamation funds be paid upfront and readily available to state agencies
    4. The authority to impose fines for permit violations
    5. A means of evaluating a mining company, its track record, its ability to meet its financial obligations, etc.
    6. Required number of announced and unannounced inspections that reflect the potential dangers of an operation. (“In most cases, two inspections are made each year …” “(DOE has) the right to access a mine for unannounced inspections”)


  1. The draft does not indicate what additional regulations are in place (or needed) to address the potential hazards of metal mining operations that involve processing.


  1. The draft does not mention specific hazards, such as cyanide and mercury.


  1. The draft does not mention dams or impoundments.


  1. The draft does not mention potential sites that would require ongoing monitoring for potential leaks and failures or the need for ongoing funding for inspections, maintenance, repairs, and compensation for damages.


  1. The draft does not mention DOE, DEQ, or DOH regulations addressing public participation, equity, and environmental justice. Isn’t each agency responsible for implementing the Virginia Environmental Justice Act of 2020? What EJ policies has each agency developed that apply to metal mining?


  1. The DOH draft seems to indicate that current agency regulations do not specifically address mining. Does DOH have (and, if not, should it have) any responsibility for public awareness regarding potential water contamination, air pollution, and health hazards associated with metal mining and processing?


  1. Virginia’s regulations have little meaning if agencies lack the funds and staffing to enforce them. A State Agency Committee report to the General Assembly on current regulations should acknowledge that regulations on paper are not, in themselves, adequate to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Virginians.
CommentID: 127375