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Signed bill requires study of the impact of gold mining

Buckingham County environmentalists are celebrating the passage and signing of a bill to begin studying the potential impact of commercial gold mining in Virginia.

While the bill, signed into law, was significantly watered down from Delegate Elizabeth Guzman’s initial proposal designed to limit the permitting of potential gold mines, she said this is a good place to start.

“The passage of HB 2213 means Virginia is taking a big step forward toward better understanding the impacts that gold mining has on our environment, public health and the miners themselves,” Guzman stated in a Thursday, April 1, press release from the Friends of Buckingham. “I want to thank the Friends of Buckingham for their extraordinary efforts and tireless advocacy to protect their community time and time again. I look forward to our continued work together to ensure that Virginia’s people and water are not harmed by the toxic chemicals used in modern-day gold mining.”

The bill establishes a work group to study mining gold in Virginia. The study group is charged with evaluating the impacts of gold mining on public health, safety and welfare.

“The work study group required by the bill must equitably include input and representation from the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice; experts from beyond only Virginia agencies in mining, hydrology, toxicology and other relevant fields; environmental organizations; representatives of potentially affected communities in localities with significant deposits of gold; and residents of Native American communities in such counties,” Kenda Hanuman, the co-chair on the Friends of Buckingham gold committee, said.

William Perkins, a deacon of Warminster Baptist Church, which is located across the street from the exploratory drilling activity, said he was glad to hear Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law.

“Speaking on behalf of the Warminster Church community, we are pleased to learn today that HB2213 was signed by Governor Northam. Our neighborhood is a 154-year-old African American church community. The majority of our members are lifelong residents with ancestral ties in the immediate area which is currently being targeted for gold mining. We also share the same aquifer with our Freedman settled Union Hill neighbors.

“Vulnerable communities like ours should not suffer the burdens of the unexamined consequences of open pit gold mining. We have a right to be free from ecological devastation that would disproportionately impact our health, our water sources and our way of life. This would be environmental injustice. We look forward to having our voices represented and heard in the study.”

Friends of Buckingham President Chad Oba said the permitting of gold mines cannot be allowed to continue due to potential environmental damage.

“There are many unanswered questions,” Oba said. “It is appropriate to assess whether open pit gold mining should be permitted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Buckingham is ground zero, but the gold pyrite belt runs from Fairfax to Halifax. Allowing permitting to go forward without making a close analysis of what is at risk is absolutely imprudent.”