On behalf of the Virginia Conservation Network, I am deeply concerned about the prospect of gold mining operations being renewed in Virginia. Large-scale gold mining would put communities within the Gold-Pyrite belt at serious risk of pollution, including from groundwater depletion and water pollution from cyanide used in the metals processing itself.
Additionally, I am also concerned by Virginia’s lack of existing regulations and bonding requirements for large-scale metals mining, and in particular, the impact it could have on communities dependent on the James River as a drinking source. Virginia has insufficient bonding requirements that leave communities vulnerable to inadequate clean-up and decommissioning by any mineral company doing business. Before we consider any sort of metals mining the state needs to at least engage in an intensive stakeholder process where input from impacted communities should be prioritized over input from industry association groups.
Furthermore, Large-scale gold mining is a notoriously toxic process, as are the related waste materials. As the Commonwealth is already blighted with un-reclaimed gold mines, attention should be focused on making those sites safe and preventing contamination into Virginia waterways, rather than increasing risk.
Virginia cannot afford these risks to clean water and health. And therefore, both the Virginia Department of Energy and the Virginia Legislature should conclude that this industry would harm Virginia’s people and places, and not be allowed to proliferate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.