Public Hearing on Monday, January 11 at 6 pm. Please submit comments before noon, the day of meeting, or they will not be delivered. Talking points and resources follow these instructions.

Please direct comments to the Public Hearing on January 11 on commercial prospecting.

1.      Written comments may be mailed to the Planning Commission at PO Box 252 Buckingham, VA 23921. Please limit word count to 500 words. Your comments will be read at the public hearing.
2.      Emailed comments may be sent to publiccomments@buckinghamcounty.virginia.gov. Please limit word count to 500 words. Your comments will be read at the public hearing.
3.      Telephone voicemail comments may be left by calling 434-969-5039. These comments will be played to the Planning Commission during the public hearing period of the meeting.
4.      To watch virtually the Planning Commission meeting please email your request to attend the public hearing publiccomments@buckinghamcounty.virginia.gov. You will receive notice with the link and/or telephone number necessary to connect virtually during the meeting.
5.       To attend the meeting in person, email your request to attend to: publiccomments@buckinghamcounty.virginia.gov. The capacity has been 20 people, physically distanced, wearing masks.

To watch the meeting live and/or recorded, go to
Buckingham County Board of Supervisors YouTube.

Talking points for comments:

Motions made at the December 21, 2020 joint work session, to be voted on Monday January 11:

  1. Add “commercial prospecting” as a by-right use in A1, M1, and M2 zones.
  2. Add definition of “registered commercial prospecting” as: the exploration of material included but not limited to mineral, stone, gas or rock by commercial purposes by drilling, excavation or other land disturbance activities for commercial purposes by the entity.

Talking Points Regarding Commercial Prospecting By-Right (property owner’s rights)

Please consider joining us in solidarity, to make this opening request. Please make the rest your own, using the resources below to guide your understanding.

We ask you to deny the addition of commercial prospecting in A1, M1, and M2 zones as a by-right use. Your vote for this opens the door to gold mining, poly metallic mineral and cyanide leaching mining in Buckingham County.
_____________________________

The community’s immediate concern is, and always has been, the prospect of a gold mine in the county, and the core sampling associated with that prospect.

Community members are concerned that core drilling has already disrupted the water table. The county invited industry representatives to inform the Board on this issue. When asked whether core drilling could have caused local wells to run dry, the industry representatives said they would need more information to know for sure. The county has not sought more information and has instead decided to move forward with a motion to allow commercial prospecting by-right in the majority of the county.

The motions currently before the Board of Supervisors do not address community members’ concerns regarding possible water disruption associated with drilling core samples as deep as gold prospecting requires. This motion allows for far less oversight than regulations for well water drilling and drain fields, which are intended to protect our water. The language of the motion “drilling, excavation or other land disturbance activities” broadens the scope of exploratory drilling, leaving us vulnerable to abusive interpretation.

Before the Board of Supervisors votes to allow broadly defined commercial prospecting by-right in the county, they should first address the very real concerns community members have brought to them. 

Talking Points Regarding Gold Mining in the County

In September 2020, the Board of Supervisors instructed the Planning Commission to discuss a public hearing that would address the removal of mining as a special use from A1 zones. The Planning Commission has not done so. 

The community is concerned about gold mining specifically. We understand that other types of mining are already occurring in the county, and we are not asking you to address those types of mining. We are instead requesting that the county consider prohibiting gold mining everywhere in the county, due to its dangers to public health.

While the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission have heard from industry representatives, they have not had any conversation on the record about the specifics of gold mining, which differs from other types of mining, or about the specific dangers it presents. 

Here are just a few of the health and safety issues surrounding gold mining: 

  • Open pit mines create huge, permanent scars on the landscape. Rio Tinto’s Bingham Canyon mine southwest of Salt Lake City turned a mountain into a hole almost a kilometer deep and 4 kilometers wide. An open pit mine is the most common type of industrial metal mine, destroying ecosystems, biodiversity. Massive landslide at the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah. Photo: Deseret News.
  • Because the ore extracted from today’s mines is extremely low grade, they generate huge amounts of waste. The average gold ring generates 20-60 tons of waste.
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, metal mining is the nation’s #1 toxic polluter.
  • Of primary concern is a variety of processing options of the gold with cyanide.
  • Earthwork’s research of 14 operating U.S. copper mines (accounting for 89% of U.S. copper production) found that 100% had pipeline spills, 92% failed to control mine wastewater and 28% had tailings impoundment failures – polluting drinking water, destroying fish and wildlife habitat, harming agricultural land and threatening public health.

Mine waste comes in two basic types:

  • Waste rock – the stuff that is removed to get at the ore. Waste rock often contains trace amount of metals, some toxic, which can leach into the environment.
  • Mine tailings are the leavings after ore is processed, to remove the target metal. In tailings, toxics can be both more concentrated and more “available” to the environment so usually present more of a danger. 
  • Tailings are often impounded behind enormous earthen dams — ‘permanent’ landscape features after the mine closes. Tailings impoundments can fail catastrophically, releasing vast amounts of mine waste downstream (e.g., the 2015 Mount Poll)
  • Even when everything goes right, mine waste (and therefore a mine waste disposal site) often contains toxic substances, like arsenic, mercury, and cadmium, that are harmful to public health and fish and wildlife when released into the environment.

Resources:

Interactive map of gold drilling areas and communities impacted. Thanks to Ben Cunningham of Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA).

Map: Buckingham Gold Drilling Sites & Impacted Communities, plus ACP route
1 Buckingham Gold_Drilling_and_Impacted_Communities ACP 1-4-2021.jpg

Farmville Herald Article, 12/25/2020, on the Planning Commission decision to hold a public hearing to approve commercial prospecting as a by-right use in A-1 agricultural zone and M-1 and M-2, two industrial zones.
FH 12-25-20 Commercial Prospecting By Right

Highly educational and watchable video by Earthworks: The Dirty Truth about Cyanide Gold Mining

Aston Bay has been illegitimately drilling for gold in Buckingham for years now. Check out what they have to say about the gold in them that Virginia hills. “We have a large package of land, partnered with timber companies who are also in the resource business. We have packages of land with lots of room for exploration and like-minded partners. So, we can get the exploration work done, make a discovery and quickly prove up the potential for a mine. We’re explorers, not miners, and our business model is to add value through exploration discovery. We want to add that value in the shortest possible time then crystallize that value by selling the project to a group with the expertise and patience to develop a mine. Virginia is a fee-simple jurisdiction, meaning no permitting is required for exploration or drilling on private lands where we have signed agreements.” 

Farmville Herald letter to the editor by Debra Branch “Stick to the comprehensive plan”
FH LTE Stick to the comprehensive plan Debra Branch 12-4-20

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