Press Release

Legislation to ban cyanide in mining operations passes House unanimously

Public notification of exploratory drilling legislation also passes

January 31, 2024

Stephanie Rinaldi, Press Pause Coalition,, 434-270-0706

Richmond, Va. — Yesterday, two pieces of legislation developed from concerns of Virginians faced with impacts from exploratory drilling for metals and future large-scale metal mining operations passed the Virginia House of Delegates. The first piece of legislation, HB 84, which would create public notification requirements related to metal mining exploration, passed the House by a vote of 53-47. HB 85 passed the House unanimously and would prohibit the use of cyanide — a well-known and dangerous toxin — in metal mining operations.

Both bills stem from the potential for large-scale metal mining in Virginia and the lack of current regulations to protect the environment and water supplies. The two were introduced by Del. Shelly Simonds, House District 70, and have a large number of House co-patrons.

This issue is front of mind for many in Virginia as 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. Potential future mining 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.

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.

“Virginia is a beautiful state, endowed with amazing resources,” said Del. Simonds. “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 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. I hope they’ll find support in the Senate as well.”

“HB84 and HB85 are proactive measures to ensure the safety of Virginia’s water and communities, and we are elated they have passed the House, ” said Jessica Sims, Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “We are thankful for Del. Simonds’ continued advocacy for the James River watershed and downstream communities.”



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