In 2007, Virginia Uranium, Inc., went public with plans to exploit a major uranium deposit in PittsylvaniaCounty. The deposit at the Cole Hill Farm had been identified years ago but in 1982 the Virginia Legislature enacted a statewide ban on uranium mining which still exists today. To date, industry has failed to garner sufficient support to repeal the ban.
Many believe that there is much risk involved in the mining and milling of uranium. One such group Southern Environmental Law Center, http://www.southernenvironment.org/cases/uranium_mining_in_virginia cites several issues in support of continuing the ban. Virginia has no regulations in place to regulate uranium mining, less than 1% of Virginia’s budget is dedicated to environmental programs and even the Federal government has little or no experience regulating uranium mining in a “wet climate”. Additionally, there are potential health risks resulting from contaminated soil and water. Uranium mining could also pose a roadblock to economic diversity and development in Southside Virginia.
Virginia Uranium, Inc., VUI, http://www.virginiauranium.com/ believes that uranium mining will be an economic boon to the Southside region and that the mining and milling of uranium can be accomplished safely and in an environmentally friendly manner. They provide details on how the uranium will be extracted and processed and explain how it will be done responsibly. Citing oversight by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) http://www.nrc.gov/ and Virginia Division of Mines, Minerals and Energy, DMME, http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/ VUI notes that prior to any operation they must post bonds in an amount set by NRC for the reclamation of the site. Once the site is shut down the long term maintenance of the site will be the responsibility of the Department of Energy. (DOE).
Uranium mining in Virginia… is it one piece in the energy independence puzzle? An economic boon to both Southside Virginia and to the State? Jobs that are needed for local folks? Or is it… an environmental disaster waiting to happen? A source of disease causing pollution? An economic roadblock to the diversification of the area economy?
One thing is for sure, there are many questions and few definitive answers. One can bet that this topic will be debated in this year’s legislative session. Stay tuned…