The action we took as the result of the motion I offered does not mean a gold mine is coming to Buckingham County. Let’s make that clear. My motion was a compromise to protect private property and environmental rights while remaining business-friendly.
Our action was to amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow a common activity to be permitted — core drilling for commercial purposes. We heard from numerous experts from state agencies and groups, including the Department of Mines, Mineral and Energy and the Department of Environmental Quality, that stated this is a common and safe practice. I’ve seen core samples and they’re about three inches in diameter, and can vary in depth depending on the exploration. My motion was to define commercial core drilling as the exploration for the material, including but not limited to, mineral, stone, gas or rock, for commercial purposes, by core sampling/drilling and allow it as a by-right activity in the A-1, A-C, M-1, and M-2 Zoning Districts. We also defined “use” and “accessory use.”
Rest assured that mining, of any kind, is a special-permitted use in the A-1 District that would have to go through public hearings, vetting, testimony, permitting, and potential conditions to protect human health and the environment if, in fact, a special use permit application were to be submitted, which has not taken place. Mining is a highly regulated process at the state and federal level. And, again, the Board of Supervisors would hear from the Planning Commission and the Board would vote on that permit.
I very much enjoyed hearing from our citizens and those concerned about this very important topic. It’s important the public have a voice in this process. Many of the comments were geared toward the assumption that if the Board of Supervisors were to allow commercial core drilling to be a by-right use, then a gold mine would automatically be allowed to operate in the county. That’s not the case.
What this action means is that essentially one has the right to sample what’s under the ground on their property to determine its mineral characteristics. In theory, it’s really no different than core sampling, say for a silo, road, or a garage. It’s my opinion that the government doesn’t have an interest in regulating core sampling. That’s a personal property right and should be by-right.