In 2022, The Piedmont Environmental Council was proud to partner with student volunteers from UVA’s Clark Scholars program on a project to analyze the status of former gold mine sites throughout the Commonwealth. Using data pulled from the Virginia Department of Energy’, including its Mineral Mining online mapping interface, the students’ research enabled PEC to produce the new WebMap embedded below. Our interactive map shows the location of former gold mine sites in Virginia, and importantly, visually displays each mine site’s “OLAC ranking,” a measure of prioritization for reclamation based on site assessments and potential contamination (red corresponds to the highest priority for cleanup).
Viewers can use the online “Layer List” found on the right-hand side of the map to see the key and toggle on additional layers, such as downstream drinking intakes, Virginia Senate and House districts and the gold pyrite belt.
More about OLAC ranking:
Abandoned mine sites that have been assessed by an orphaned land advisory committee (OLAC) for evaluation and prioritization of the order of reclamation. This committee consists of individuals from the Division of Mineral Resources, the mineral mining industry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Environmental Quality, and private citizens.
Sites are voted on by Committee members and given rankings of A, B, or C, which represent the following:
A = Highest Priority, reclamation of all these sites occurs first.
B = Medium Priority, reclamation occurs after all A sites are complete.
C = Low Priority, reclamation will occur after all A and B sites are complete or site naturally reclaimed.
Rankings are determined following a site investigation: “The information collected at the site is compiled and reduced to the categories of Exposure, Environmental, and Safety Hazards. For each of these three categories, a numerical score is developed which indicates the magnitude of the problems at a site. The larger the numerical score the greater the problem at the site.” [Source: 2003 – Abandoned Mineral Mining Inventory Protocol – Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy]
It is important to note that many of these sites have not been visited by the Virginia Department of Energy since original assessments were completed in the 1980s. And some have never been evaluated (these mine sites are indicated in gray on the map).
More information about OLAC rankings online at:
Press Pause Coalition:
PEC is a member of the Press Pause Coalition, a group of local and state organizations working to protect Virginia’s communities, public health and resources from the mining of gold, copper, zinc, and lead. Formed in 2021, the coalition seeks to implement a pause on permitting large-scale mining of these metals in Virginia while the impacts of these operations, which haven’t occurred in Virginia in many decades and could threaten the drinking water of millions, can be evaluated and addressed.
We believe it is important to take a hard look at former metals mining sites and their ongoing legacy of contamination and lack of reclamation, prior to Virginia embarking on a new round of metal mine permitting.
This WebMap was created by PEC’s Watsun Randolph, with assistance from Bri West and former PEC staffer Dan Holmes. We are particularly grateful to the following UVA Clark Scholars who volunteered on this project: Teagan Baiotto, Rodas Addis, Jennifer Khuu, Emma Wilt, Babafemi Omole.
Have questions about this map? Reach out to Bri West at email@example.com.