12 August 2014
Just over the Fluvanna-Goochland border is an old abandoned gold mine. Aside from the gold and silver that may lurk in its depths, there are precious stones – garnets for sure, possibly sapphires, and maybe even diamonds. There is likely also mercury, and lots of it, lacing the soil.
William Kilgore of Bristol, Tennessee, wants to delve back down into what was once called the Moss Mine in search of whatever treasure he might find. And in the process he wants to clean the mercury from the soil, fill in the shafts that still exist from the property’s hundred-year mining history, and – when he’s through – leave no trace that a mine ever existed.
Giving him the blessing to proceed is the Goochland County Board of Supervisors, which on July 1 unanimously awarded him the conditional use permit that he sought for his mining activities.
From 1835 to 1936 people looked sporadically for gold in the Moss Mine, which sits on a 46-acre parcel of land at 4358 Shannon Mill Road. But in either 1937 or 1938 it was abandoned. Many shafts still remain on the property, according to a Goochland County staff report, and “a few are visible from the surface due to damage from the 2011 earthquake.” Kilgore hopes that more than just shafts remain in the darkness underground.
As a part of the exploration process, Kilgore drilled a hole only one and seven-eighths inches wide all the way down into the earth. What he pulled back was intriguing – garnet. “Whether or not it’s gem quality is yet to be determined,” Kilgore said, “but it’s commercial quality at least.”
Images of mining call to mind stacks of dynamite and echoes of blasting. But Kilgore plans to mine the property for “free milling” gold, which is, according to the staff report, “visible gold that can be separated from its host rock through crushing and gravity separation technology.” By washing the earth and rock, Kilgore hopes to separate the gold from the rest. That’s also how he plans to remove the mercury or other contaminants, which got into the soil in the first place as a result of environmentally-unfriendly mining techniques from the old days.