The Commonwealth of Virginia is a place of great beauty and rich history. Mining within the commonwealth does not compare with that of western states. However, Virginia has produced iron, gold, copper, lead and zinc. In addition there has been significant coal mining and oil production in the southwest corner of the Commonwealth.
Virginia physiography and geology is interesting. The commonwealth is divided into five (5) physiography/geologic provinces. These Provinces are: 1) the Coastal Plain which extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Fall Line; 2) The Piedmont; 3) The Blue Ridge; 4) The Valley and Ridge; and 5) The Appalachian Plateau.
The Virginia Department of Mines and Minerals produces various publications for public use. The most useful publication has been Base and Precious Metal and Relater Ore Deposits of Virginia, Mineral Resources Report 7 (Report 7); this volume is out of print. Report 7 lists 496 mines and prospects.
Notes on Collecting:
Virginia metal mining certificates are relatively uncommon. This is due to the fact that mining enterprises were typically small and produced little.
Virginia gold producing has been minor but the Virginia gold belt is extends through the piedmont from the North Carolina border to the District of Columbia. The earliest reference to gold in the southern piedmont was mad by Thomas Jefferson in 1782. Virginia gold production was never high. Per USGS Professional Paper (PP 610), Gold production through 1959 was about 168,000 oz. In contrast, gold production of Cripple Creek, Colorado was 19.1 million oz.
Iron mining was common in colonial Virginia. Iron deposits are found in the Piedmont and the Valley and Ridge Provinces. The most successful iron mining enterprise appears to be that of the Low Moor Iron Company which operated near Clifton Forge, VA. The company operated mines and blast furnaces until the 1920’s.
Silver, Lead and Zinc:
The largest lead and zinc mines were located in Wyeth County located in the Valley and Ridge Province. The deposits are in limestone and are classified as “Mississippi Valley type deposits.” Silver is a minor byproduct of lead and zinc ores. The New Jersey Zinc Company operated the large Austinville – Ivanhoe Mine in Wythe County for many years. The mine was closed in 1982.
Copper production was never important in Virginia. There are scattered copper mines in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge and Valley and Ridge Provinces. Copper was mined in the Halifax District in the Piedmont. The district is fairly large and extends into North Carolina. However, production has been small.
Pyrite was mined in significant quantities from mines in the Piedmont Province.
Barite mining occurred in scattered locations in the Valley and Ridge Province.
Coal and oil are produced in southwestern Virginia. Mines and wells are primarily in the Appalachian Plateau Province. The largest know deposit of uranium is located in the Piedmont Province in Pittsylvania County. Virginia has a ban on uranium mining and so the deposit is undeveloped. Report 7 also makes brief mention of pyrrhotite, nickel, arsenic, tin, and tungsten.