Letter — Gold mining in Virginia?

Published 11:05 am Friday, April 8, 2022

To the Editor:

Modern open pit gold mining of low grade ore is one of the most polluting mining activities there is. Recent studies have documented that more than 70 to 90% of major gold mines that are near underground or surface water cause contamination of that water.

Many open pit gold mines excavate 8 – 30 tons of ore just to produce 5 gold rings; 99.99% of what was mined becomes waste that’s been treated with cyanide to recover the gold. The resulting waste and will be disposed of in permanent dumpsites called “tailings storage facilities.” While mines and their associated waste dumps are supposed to comply with regulations, such regulations are minimum requirements and don’t prevent pollution from occurring. Regulations often legitimize pollution that would not have occurred. The best regulations in the world are worthless if not rigorously enforced. Rigorous enforcement means frequent inspections by knowledgeable and conscientious inspectors, backed by significant fines for noncompliance. In my experience with mining and environmental regulatory agencies, they have been chronically understaffed, overworked and underpaid. This explains why tailings dams fail all too frequently, like the Mt. Polley and Brumadinho disasters.

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What does this mean in reality? It means that if gold mining is allowed in Virginia, future generations of Virginians will pay for the pollution that gold mining left behind. Sign the petition to the Buckingham Supervisors supporting an ordinance that would protect against the toxic trespass of gold mining here: bit.ly/bhamord

George M. Neall III

Retired Mining Engineer (B.S.; M.S.; P.E.)