Legislation filed to ban the use of cyanide in mining operations

December 28, 2023

Stephanie Rinaldi, Press Pause Coalition, presspauseva@gmail.com, 434-270-0706

Richmond, VA — Today, Del. Shelly Simonds, House District 70, filed two pieces of legislation designed to protect the health of Virginia communities from a dangerous toxin used in large-scale metal mining. The first piece of legislation prohibits the use of cyanide in metal mining operations and the second creates public notification requirements related to metal mining exploration. No current mining operations use cyanide, and the legislation is designed not to impact any existing industries.

Both bills address the potential for increased mineral mining in Virginia and the lack of current regulations to protect the environment and water supplies.

“The threat of large-scale metal mining coming to Virginia is real and our current legal framework won’t protect us from the pollution it could cause,” said Del. Simonds.

A 2022 study released by the National Academies of Science, Medicine and Engineering concluded that “Virginia’s regulations are insufficient to protect against the potential impacts of gold mining,” a conclusion echoed by a secondary report to the NASEM study written by a state agency committee. Both reports determined that Virginia does not currently have sufficient regulations in place to protect our water and public health from new large-scale mining operations.

The legislation would prevent use of the unnecessary and dangerous contaminate cyanide, and would require public notification of exploratory drilling, a step that promotes community engagement. Current exploratory operations have taken place in Buckingham, Campbell and Pittsylvania counties with indications that large-scale gold and other metal mining could occur across the Commonwealth. Operations could put the drinking water sources of over 3 million Virginians at risk, including those in major population centers like Richmond, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

Del. Shelly Simonds (HD94) said: “Virginia is a beautiful state, endowed with amazing resources but what many people don’t know is that we have major mineral deposits close to urban areas. International mining companies are exploring for minerals here and if they start to mine we need to make sure our water supply is protected and that there are proper regulations in place. My region in Hampton Roads is downstream from potential large-scale gold mining operations so the conclusions of the recent NASEM study were concerning to me and my community. I don’t want families worrying about cyanide getting into their drinking water. This bill would protect our families from this kind of pollution.”

“The results of the NASEM study were clear; Virginia needs better regulations to prepare for the potential arrival of this new-to-us mining industry,” said Stephanie Rinaldi, a potentially impacted community member and coordinator of the Press Pause Coalition. “Exploration is currently happening less than two miles from my home, so I am extremely grateful to Del. Simonds for filing these two bills, which both directly address findings of the study, and I hope they’ll find support on both sides of the aisle.”

“The public deserves both the prevention of a major threat to their water — cyanide contamination —– and to know if exploratory drilling is occurring in their community,” said Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “We are thankful for Del. Simonds’ legislation which is protective of the James River, those who depend on that watershed and downstream communities.”