Monday, June 16, 2014

There's gold in Shannon Hill

Although Goochland’s glory days as a source of gold are long past, one mine in the western end of the county could be in for a last hurrah.

The subject was on the June 5 agenda of the Goochland Planning Commission. Before deliberations on the matter began, John Myers, District 1, explained that his property adjoins the land in question. He consulted County Attorney Norman Sales who opined that Myers’ participation does not violate state conflict of interest laws. District 3 Commissioner Derek Murray was absent.

William Kilgore of Bristol, Tennessee filed an application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to conduct mining operations at the Moss Mine site on Shannon Hill Road. His stated goal is to extract whatever gold, silver, and copper may be left in the mine. At the end of mining operations, he intends to clean up the site, removing any hazardous materials left over from previous mining operations, and leave a well-landscaped wetland in its place.

In the early days of America, treasure seekers came to western Goochland. One of these, John Moss, discovered gold on his property in 1835 and the site was mined on and off until 1936, according to the staff report, (available in the June 5 meeting packet on the county website

(Visit the website of the Central Virginia Gold Prospectors for fascinating information about gold in Virginia.)

The mine site is located on a parcel of approximately 45.8 acres. The CUP governs about 15 acres that will be involved in mining operations; approximately 4.3 acres will be “disturbed” by removing rock and soil to extract precious metal.
Although some gold mining operations use caustic chemicals to separate gold from, Kilgore plans to crush rock and sluice it with water to separate the metal from other materials by gravity. The mining operation will not involve any blasting.

In accordance with county zoning laws, no mining operations will take place within one thousand feet of the nearest residence. Hours of operation will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The area will be fenced and measures to prevent soil erosion will be taken.

Although Kilgore initially intended to renovate the old mill house, it was damaged beyond repair by the 2011 earthquake and will be removed. Additional mine shafts on the property will be filled in.

Kilgore explained that the mining is heavily regulated by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Obtaining a CUP is just the initial step in securing approval from state regulatory agencies. To gain approval, a permit must include mitigation plans for ground water contamination. Kilgore said he will hire a mining engineer to ensure that operations are conducted properly.

He offered somewhat vague responses to questions about capitalization of the project and return on investment, which seems reasonable given the nature of the enterprise. Kilgore did say that he will not do anything without a $2 million line of credit,
and declared that he has investors ready to come on board to fund the mining operation once permits have been obtained. He said that an assay of the site estimated between 10 to 20,000 ounces of precious metal could be recovered. While Kilgore contended that the estimate was conservative,it is an estimate. A lot of rock must be crushed and processed to see exactly what is there.

The Planning Commissioners, though interested in the mining process, were mindful of the need to protect Goochland. The motion to recommend approval of the CUP included a requirement that Kilgore post a $100,000 performance bond when he applies for a land disturbing permit to ensure that the site is cleaned up should Kilgore run out of money and abandon the property.

Matt Brewer, District 2 pointed out that the county performance bond, on top of the more modest bond required by the DMME, will ensure that the county does not foot the bill for reclamation efforts.

The Commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval of a five year CUP with the additional performance bond requirement. The Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on the application at its July 1, 2014 meeting.
Once again, the streamlined planning commission did its homework and conducted a careful, thoughtful hearing.

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