The General Assembly passed HB 2213, lieutenant governor candidate Delegate Elizabeth Guzman’s (D-Prince William) bill to create a work group of scientists, local representatives, activists and state officials to study the impacts of gold mining. Although the bill originally included a two-year moratorium on permits for new gold mines bigger than 10 acres, the Senate removed that clause before passing the bill Tuesday 23 to 16. The House passed the amended version Thursday 56 to 43, sending it to the Governor for final approval.
“House Bill 2213 left this house including not only a work group but also a moratorium on large-scale gold mining,” Guzman said on the House floor on Thursday. “However, the senators have disagreed with us, and they have removed the moratorium, but we still have the work group, and I think this is still a good bill, so I would ask the members of this body to accept the senate amendments for House Bill 2213.”
Guzman introduced the bill after Canadian mining exploration company Aston Bay Holdings began exploring Buckingham County for gold, surprising county officials who ordered the company to pause the exploration. In January, county officials allowed the exploration to continue.
“The prospect of an open pit gold mine in Buckingham County near the historic district of Union Hill and along the James River is looking increasingly likely in the near future,” Guzman said in committee in January. The study results are due by July 2022, and the moratorium would have allowed time for legislators to consider the results of the study.
“We need to take a pause, Madam Speaker, and carefully assess how gold mining will impact the environment and water quality if left unchecked,” Guzman said in January.
Aston Bay Holdings CEO Thomas Ulrich told The Virginia Star in an email that his company supports the amended version of HB 2213.
Ulrich wrote, “While the study provision is appropriate, a moratorium is simply premature and not necessary. Also, the regulatory agencies are staffed by highly competent and dedicated professionals and we believe the situation is already in very capable hands. We are confident the study will demonstrate this to be the case.”
“Currently, no mine is being proposed and we are planning the next phase of exploration,” Ulrich said.
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