Letter: Who cares about the consequences of gold/metallic mining?

Published 6:57 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

Dear Editor, 

The Buckingham Supervisors handed the project of banning metallic mining to the Planning Commission. The Planners have hosted more than two hours of testimony — exclusively from self-promoting industry, which has them a bit derailed, thinking that metallic mining isn’t so bad! I remind us — that the EPA considers metallic mining the most toxic of all industries.

I asked Chair Bickford to invite independent experts (who have had success in mining reform around the world) to the next Planning Commission Work Session on April 19 at 6 p.m. His current plan is to hear my 20 minute report on the 2022 state study of the potential impacts of gold mining in Virginia. The county attorney would be speaking for the remaining time on the legalities of banning mining. I hope he’s done his research. We observed his failure in August to cite Virginia law allowing counties to ban mining.

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At the work session, covered in the March 24 Farmville Herald feature article, we heard about industry’s needs and wants to stay the course, to carry on as is. We heard about the good paying jobs and the taxes paid to the county and state, and about the mining materials that we use every day. We can thank them for bringing these benefits to our world and benefits need to outweigh the risks in any choices in life. 

I heard nothing about the so-called ‘externalized costs’ of doing business. The true costs that we all pay for, in forever-poisoned water, air, land and the effects on our health, safety and local and regional economies.

I heard no offer of solutions from industry as to how to protect this county and the state of Virginia from the ravages of the metallic mining industry. 

Let’s remember the Supervisors agree they don’t want new metallic mining. Figuring out how to stop it is the challenge. The options need careful scrutiny: ban new metallic mining, ban cyanide, and/or require industry to prove it safe first. By calling in forward-thinking experts we can learn from other communities such as Wisconsin that successfully required safety to be proven first, or El Salvador, which banned metallic mining, or the state of Montana, which banned cyanide.

The state study of the potential impacts of gold mining to Virginia tells us clearly that our regulatory framework won’t protect us, and lacks an adequate financial assurance system, posing a fiscal and environmental risk to the Commonwealth. It is very important for decision makers to hear from voices that have been hard at work creating new ideas and solutions to these very big problems. 

Please call your Supervisor and Commissioner and tell them you want them to make decisions based on fair and balanced information on how metallic mining would affect the County and your future here.

Heidi Dhivya Berthoud