Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy

General Notice
Public Comment Forum for State Agency Statement of Task for Gold Mining Study
Date Posted: 2/28/2022
Expiration Date: 3/23/2022
Submitted to Registrar for publication: NO
23 Day Comment Forum closed. Began on 2/28/2022 and ended 3/23/2022   [8 comments]

The Virginia Department of Energy, in coordination with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Health, is accepting public comments on the draft statements of task produced by members of the state agency component of the work group assembled to study gold mining in the Commonwealth.  For more background information on the study, please click here.

Comments will be accepted until March 23, 2022 and will be reviewed by the state agency component as it prepares to finalize its statement of task at an upcoming public meeting to be scheduled.

Draft Statement of Task Produced by State Agencies

The state agency component of the workgroup is composed of staff from the Department of Energy (Virginia Energy), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Virginia Department of Health, and concerned citizens who meet the requirements of HB2213.

In addition to providing support and assistance to the NASEM component of the work group, the state agency component will focus on:

1. environmental justice concerns of the local community.

2. environmental and human health concerns of the local community.

3. detailing existing state permitting processes.

4. local land use/zoning procedures/requirements (special or conditional use permits)

In addition to interacting with NASEM, the state agency component will host meetings in and around Buckingham County in an attempt to gather as much local input as possible.  Where technology allows, these meetings will also be livestreamed.

Draft Statement of Task Produced by Press Pause Coalition

This State Agency Committee (this committee) was formed as part of a work group outlined in HB2213.  This committee will meet ___# times per month to learn about these topics from experts and to hear from the public on the issue. Experts may participate in the meetings virtually or in person, by submitting papers or reports, or by a combination of these methods.

Public comments can be submitted via the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website, by emailing the committee at, or via meeting attendance either in person or virtually. This committee will provide support and assistance to the NASEM component of the HB2213 work group via white paper submissions, by attending joint meetings with NASEM, and by holding meetings in and around Buckingham County and other potentially impacted communities, while placing a particular focus on:

1. Environmental justice concerns of potentially impacted communities

2. Environmental and human health impacts to potentially impacted communities

3. Detailing existing state permitting processes, comparing them with processes in other jurisdictions, and determining if current regulations are adequate to address impacts to potentially impacted communities

NASEM will issue a consensus report to Virginia Energy no later than November 1, 2022, and this committee will have no less than one month to issue a companion document that will be presented along with the NASEM report to the Virginia General Assembly by December 1, 2022.

The companion document will describe this committee’s understanding of the issue; outline community concerns and expectations; provide policy and other recommendations; and may respond to, expand upon, or discuss specific topics in the NASEM consensus report.

Aspects of the committee to be determined at this meeting:

I. Meeting dates and times

A. How often

B. Where

C. When

II. Format of meetings

A. In person/virtual

B. Length of meeting

C. Ways to include experts

III. Committee Structure

A. Role/duties of committee members

B. Select a chairperson if necessary

IV. Public comment opportunities

A. When and how will public comment

B. How will the committee engage with comments

C. Will the final report be made available to the public for comment before it’s presented to the GA When and how

V. Topics to Cover and Experts to Invite

A. Environmental Justice Impact

1. Dr. David Pellow

2. Dr. Eddy Cadet

B. Social Impact

Dr. Erica Schoenberger

C. Economic Impact

Dr. Tom Power

D. Cyanide and Other Chemicals

1. Stu Levit, JD

2. Dr. Steve Emerman

E. Water Pollution (surface and underground aquifers)

Dr. Ann Maest

F. Tailings (storage, risks, impacts)

1. Dr. Dave Chambers

2. Jim Kuipers

G. Reclamation practices/bonding

Dr. Steve Emerman

H. Gold Mining Regulations, Virginia and Beyond

1. DEQ Representative

2. Aaron Mintzes, JD

3. Stu Levit, JD

Expert Bios

Dr. Ann Maest is Vice President of Buka Environmental in Boulder, Colorado, and Chief Scientist for E-Tech International, a nonprofit organization working on environmental monitoring and capacity building in Latin America. Dr. Maest is an aqueous geochemist who specializes in the environmental effects of hardrock mining, baseline water quality evaluations, water quality predictions for hardrock mines, and geochemical modeling and characterization methods. Ann provides training to governmental agencies and communities on Environmental Impact Statement evaluation, environmental monitoring, the water quality effects of mining, and best practices. After completing her PhD, Dr. Maest was a research geochemist in the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Research Program, where she built and managed an analytical laboratory and conducted research on the geochemistry of surface water and groundwater systems. She has served on several U.S. National Academy of Sciences committees, including the Committee on Earth Resources which oversaw the 2012 report on Uranium Mining in Virginia, and their Board on Earth Sciences and Resources. Ann was an invited speaker on technical challenges and solutions for the mining sector at the United Nations. She holds an undergraduate degree in geology from Boston University and a PhD in geochemistry and water resources from Princeton University.

Dr. Steven H. Emerman has a B.S. in mathematics from The Ohio State University. M.A. in geophysics from Princeton University, and Ph.D. in geophysics from Cornell University. He taught hydrology and geophysics at the university level for 31 years, including teaching as a Fulbright Professor at Tribhuvan University in Nepal and Escuela Politécnica Nacional in Ecuador, and has 70 peer-reviewed publications in these areas. From 1987-89 he served with Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress. In 2018 he founded Malach Consulting, which provides consulting services in groundwater and mining. Dr. Emerman has reviewed proposed and existing metallic and coal mining projects, including gold mining, in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and has testified on mining issues before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States. He is a co-author of Safety First: Guidelines for Responsible Mine Tailings Management, the author of the chapter on Waste Management for the upcoming Underground Mining Handbook, and the chair of the Body of Knowledge Subcommittee of the U.S. Society on Dams.

Dr. Eddy Cadet is an Environmental Health Scientist with a background in the enforcement of Health Department environmental regulations. His research interests include trace metal mobility in soil and sediment and their uptake by plant species, Phytoremediation, water quality, and anthropogenic impact on Utah Lake. Cadet has researched the impact of mine tailings storage facilities on downstream water quality, and has an M.S. in Environmental Justice.

Jim Kuipers (Registered Mining Engineer) is a mining environmental consultant, and the principal and a consulting engineer with Kuipers and Associates based in Wisdom, Montana. He received a B.S. from Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology in mineral process engineering, and is a registered professional engineer in Colorado and Montana. He grew up in a mining family and has worked on mining and environmental projects including project development, engineering design, permitting, operations, reclamation and closure, water treatment and financial assurance for over 40 years. Since 1996, his primary work has been as a consultant providing engineering and other technical expertise to governmental and non-governmental organizations relative to hardrock mining and other extractive resource environmental issues.

Dr. Thomas Power is a natural resource economist who has focused on the relationship between natural resources and local economic development. Specifically, he has focused on minerals, water, forests, and environmental quality that contributes to economic well-being and local economic vitality. Dr. Power has studied the economic impacts of metal mining (primarily copper, gold, and uranium) in 13 US states, Alberta, and Central America. He has studied the economic impacts of coal mining in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Appalachia. For almost all of his adult life, Dr. Power has lived in western Montana where metal mining has played an important part of the region’s economic history, e.g. the Anaconda Copper Company’s widespread operations in the state. He has also dealt with the rebirth and then decline in coal mining in eastern Montana and Wyoming over the last four decades. Dr. Power received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Lehigh University and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. He has been associated with the Economics Department at the University of Montana for over fifty years, thirty of those years as Chairman of the Economics Department. He is also the Principal in Power Economic Consulting Incorporated.

Aaron Mintzes, JD serves as Senior Policy Counsel for Earthworks, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the impacts of mineral development. Aaron's work focuses on policies and projects, at all levels of government, specifically related to hardrock mining. Based in Washington, D.C., he provides technical advice to Congress, local, state, and federal agencies on minerals policy, and routinely counsels communities impacted by extraction. In addition, Aaron has both staffed and served on Federal Advisory Committees chartered to advise the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, and other agencies on mining. Aaron received his B.A. from Vassar College and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

Stu Levit, M.S., J.D. works with the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2). Previously, Stu worked for the Montana Department of State Lands, Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau as a Land Reclamation Specialist, where he designed mine reclamation project plans, focusing on water quality and watershed improvement, hard rock mines, acid mine drainage prevention and treatment, artificial wetlands, and NEPA and Superfund (state and federal) compliance. After completing law school at the University of Montana in 1994, Stu was a clerk for the Montana Supreme Court, and later worked for multiple indigenous groups in Idaho and Montana focusing on environmental issues. He represented CSP2 as a technical analyst to the Clark Fork Technical Assistance Committee for the Clark Fork River superfund sites (Anaconda Co./ARCO Butte-Milltown Dam). He was also Watershed Program Coordinator and Staff Attorney for American Wildlands, where he developed and implemented a framework and strategy for campaigns to protect high quality watersheds.

Dr. David Pellow is the Dehlsen and Department Chair of Environmental Studies and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he teaches courses on environmental and social justice, race/class/gender and environmental conflict, human-animal conflicts, sustainability, and social change movements that confront our socioenvironmental crises and social inequality. He has volunteered for and served on the Boards of Directors of several community-based, national, and international organizations that are dedicated to improving the living and working environments for people of color, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and working class communities, including the Global Action Research Center, the Center for Urban Transformation, the Santa Clara Center for Occupational Safety and Health, Global Response, Greenpeace USA, and International Rivers.

Erica Schoenberger was educated at Stanford University (BA, History) and the University of California, Berkeley (PhD, City and Regional Planning). She has written extensively about corporate strategy in technology-intensive industries and about the environmental and social history of gold mining. She has also written about environmentally sustainable mining with a particular focus on the engineering and management of mine tailings storage facilities (TSFs), the causes of TSF failure and the conditions that support environmentally benign outcomes.

Dr. David Chambers is the founder and president of the Center for Science in Public Participation, a non-profit corporation formed to provide technical assistance on mining and water quality to public interest groups and tribal governments. David Chambers has 40 years of experience in mineral exploration and development – 15 years of technical and management experience in the mineral exploration industry, and for the past 25 years he has served as an advisor on the environmental effects of mining projects both nationally and internationally. He has Professional Engineering Degree in Physics from the Colorado School of Mines, a Master of Science Degree in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and is a registered professional geophysicist in California. Dr. Chambers received his Ph.D. in Environmental Planning from Berkeley. He has provided technical assistance to public interest groups and tribal governments on proposed, operating, and abandoned mines across the US and internationally. This assistance included review of underground and open pit mine design, seismic stability for tailings dams, waste rock facilities design, water quality monitoring, water treatment facility design, reclamation planning, and financial assurance for mine closure. This has included the review of dozens of environmental impact studies and included analyzing the potential adverse effects on surface and groundwater quality of acid mine drainage and metals leaching from mine point discharges and seepage from mine waste storage facilities, and on proposing alternative methodologies to avoid these impacts.




Contact Information
Name / Title: Michael Skiffington  / Regulatory Coordinator
Address: Department of Energy
1100 Bank Street, 8th Floor
Richmond, 23219-3402
Email Address:
Telephone: (804)692-3212    FAX: (804)692-3237    TDD: (800)828-1120