Your turn — Why wait to protect Buckingham County?

Published 12:15 pm Thursday, August 25, 2022

I am responding to the article written by Meghan McIntyre on Aug. 12 titled “Supervisors table mining ordinance.” She writes that Buckingham County residents will have “to wait a bit longer to find out if gold mining will be allowed in their area.” On the contrary, there is nothing stopping a gold mining company from applying for permits now, and once current regulations are met, we could have state-approved gold mining, as there is no ban.

What Ms. McIntyre is referring to is the Buckingham Board of Supervisors discussion on waiting for the state study to be completed and the expectation that the General Assembly (GA) will ban industrial gold mining. There are no guarantees the GA will ban gold mining. There is a possibility that the facts reported in the study will be interpreted by the GA that it is OK to mine gold, with appropriate regulation. Thus we see the urgency in protecting ourselves now and not wait for the state.

The proposed rights-based ordinance, now before the supervisors, has been misrepresented to “place restrictions on mining.” Not at all. This is a civil rights law, which protects our freedom from toxic trespass, our right not to be poisoned. We don’t want to be poisoned, which we know we would be, no matter what regulations are in place. We want to get out ahead of any permits that allow our poisoning and hence legalize our poisoning. It’s not OK to poison us a little bit — it’s not OK to poison us at all.

It is the state’s responsibility to regulate mining. To be clear, this ordinance does not talk about regulation. Rather, it focuses on protecting fundamental rights against violation by industrial extraction of metals. It bypasses the entire regulatory system by asserting the authority of the County to protect said rights by exercising the voice of local community self-government.

The ordinance claims our right to be free from the toxic trespass that comes with industrial metallic mining, not only gold mining. The HB 2213 state study is limited to gold mining. The rights-based ordinance provides wider protections.

On Aug. 8, the Board was concerned that they can’t make a law any more stringent than what the state sets. This, though, is only in regards to regulations, not the protection of our rights. We urge the Board to move on this now and set up protections preemptively, before a gold mine comes knocking at the door.

The county door is the first door they have to knock on in order to get the local Special Use Permit for further state and federal permitting. With strong protective measures in place, perhaps they will not come knocking at all.

So…. why wait?

MINDY ZLOTNICK is a Buckingham County resident and she can be reached at mindyzlotnick@gmail.com.