Letter to the Editor: It’s time to prove it first

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

Dear Editor,

We persist in asking our County to stop metallic mining from coming to Buckingham by passing the proposed rights-based ordinance. One of the numerous sensible, key protections in that document is the Prove It First section. This requires the applying industry to simply first show proof, before getting any permits, of another mining project of similar scope that has caused no harm to that community.

At the Planning Commission work session on 3/20, where mining industry representatives had a full 90 minutes to present their positions, they gave assurance of responsible mining. With that confidence, industry should have no problem fulfilling this requirement. We simply need proof.

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This simple and effective requirement was adopted into state law by Wisconsin in 1998 and held for 20 years. The legislation was passed by overwhelming bi-partisan margins (27-6 in the Senate and 91-6 in the Assembly). More than 60 organizations supported the legislation along with petitions signed by more than 40,000 residents. While it was law, not one mining company applied for permits. Thus it was a solidly effective roadblock. And it took hundreds of thousands of industry dollars and energy to take that law down with the help of industry friendly politicians.

This law was directed at copper sulfide mines, which are the largest source of taxpayer liability under the EPA’s Superfund cleanup program. It was this track record of sulfide mining pollution that prompted a massive grassroots environmental, sportfishing, and tribal movement to successfully oppose Exxon’s metallic sulfide mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River and enact Wisconsin’s landmark Mining Moratorium Law, known as “Prove It First”.

I thank Professor Al Gedicks of the University of Wisconsin for this information, and his work to help create the “Prove It First” law. Renowned biophysicist Steve Emerman, who also participated in the creation of the law, and informed us of it, also reviewed and approved the Buckingham proposed rights-based ordinance, for scientific and general correctness. He presented to the State Agency Committee on the study of the impacts of gold mining on Virginia. We have asked Chairman Bickford to invite Dr. Emerman to the next Planning Commission work session on Wednesday, April 19 on metallic mining to advise on the scientific questions and on Prove It First.

We are happy that a representative from the Virginia Community Rights Network and Friends of Buckingham will have the opportunity to present at this session.

The rights-based ordinance is a gift – a collaboration by many clear-thinking, concerned people. We call on our neighbors to speak up to their supervisor to support this ordinance to truly protect our home.

Julia Maria Gibson