Large scale gold and metals mining should not be allowed to harm Virginia.
Large-scale metals mining has not occurred in Virginia for many decades (almost a century in the case of gold), and Virginia’s related regulations have not been updated since the early 1900s. This is especially concerning because today’s mining methods occur at a much larger scale than previously.
Large-scale gold and metals mining in Virginia would involve toxic chemicals like cyanide, harmful processes like dewatering, and dangerous waste impoundments like hazardous (and potentially radioactive) tailings ponds. This will vastly impact water resources both in quality and quantity for Virginians adjacent and downstream of mining operations. These and other negative environmental impacts associated with large scale gold and metals mining would be borne by rural areas throughout Virginia in the gold-pyrite belt and beyond, including by environmental justice communities who have already been historically marginalized and targeted for polluting infrastructure and who already suffer from issues like poverty and lack of access to healthcare.
Further, large-scale gold and metals mining operations would harm Virginia economically via decreasing surrounding property values and impacting tourism revenue through the negative environmental impacts to adjacent areas and downstream, including the James River and Chesapeake Bay. Taxpayers and local communities will have to foot the bill for cleanup and reclamation if/when mining companies leave and abandon responsibility, which has been demonstrated in the metals mining sector.
Any benefits of these large-scale gold and metals mining operations would go to outside mining companies, not Virginians. On the other hand, the harms and resulting costs from this toxic industry, which vastly outweigh any benefits, would be borne by Virginians, including environmental justice communities in localities across the Commonwealth.
I hope that the study will acknowledge the well-documented, inevitable harms of large-scale gold mining and that Virginia’s legislature and regulatory agencies will prevent this industry from taking hold of Virginia.