Gold mining decision looms as Buckingham commission sets date

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, May 31, 2023

DILLWYN – The Buckingham County Planning Commission is done hearing presentations about gold mining. Now comes time for debate and a decision. 

During their Monday, May 22 meeting, the commission majority went silent when Planning Commission Chairman John Bickford asked if they wanted to hear from any other groups before making a decision. 

“It looks like the commission is ready to move forward and has enough information,” Bickford said after the majority sat quietly. 

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Commission member Peter Kapuscinski had raised the question of accepting the offer to hear from the Southern Environmental Law Center. But even then, Kapuscinski pointed out there needed to be limitations on the discussion. One of the alternatives to a metallic mining ban has been a proposal from the Friends of Buckingham group to adopt a “prove it first” ordinance. The concept would require applicants to produce one instance of a mining operation anywhere in the world, similar in type and scope, which succeeded in operating without poisoning the people and environment in which it was located. If they can show a similar example, they would be granted approval to operate. If they can’t, the project can’t move forward. 

But as Kapuscinski pointed out, none of that involves zoning, land use or anything else in the planning commission’s purview. 

“I wouldn’t mind hearing from at least one of those individuals if they do know something about zoning (and) land use as it relates to mining,” Kapuscinski said. “I don’t want to get into the civil rights aspect of it because that’s not our purview, but if they want to talk about land use and zoning and what they’ve done in areas that can help us make decisions, I’m all for it. That civil rights piece, the prove it first piece, that belongs to the supervisors, that’s where that needs to be decided, not here.” 

No commission members disagreed with that argument. 

What is currently allowed?

Currently in Buckingham County, mining is allowed in two districts. In Buckingham’s zoning, manufacturing districts are labeled as M-1 or M-2. In the M-1 districts, commercial core drilling is allowed by right. That means a company can drill without requesting a special use permit. Mining of any type is also allowed in the M-1 district by permit, which means the company comes before the Buckingham planning commission and supervisors and makes the request. In the M-2 district, mining is just allowed, with no permit needed.
Buckingham has two areas right now where that’s in effect. One is on Route 15 and the surrounding area near Dillwyn, where the Kyanite Mining Corporation is working. The second is also on Route 15, just off Bridgeport Road in the Slate Quarry area. There is no metallic mining happening in either area.

What happens next with gold mining?

The planning commission will discuss gold mining and potentially make a recommendation to supervisors during their next work session. That will take place Tuesday, June 20, beginning at 6 p.m. It’s not taking place on the regular Monday timeframe because June 19 is the Juneteenth holiday, so county offices will be closed.