Monday, December 26, 2011

Written by Jesse Andrews
07:51 am 12/21/11

The Chmura socio-economic study of the possibility of uranium mining in Virginia, as well as the report issued by the Danville Regional Foundation on Dec. 15, both convey the same message. Both say that Southside could possibly reap economic benefits from uranium mining, and they both say that those benefits could come at the cost of environmental and economic degradation.

Their premise is that if such mining were conducted in strict accordance with the non-existent mining regulations our Virginia legislature might come up with, and if the milling operation were conducted in strict keeping with the federal NRC regulations governing that activity, all might end up very well.

They also claim that the “perception” of the mining and milling of uranium in Virginia, whether good or bad, would be dependent in large part on the willingness of VUI to be forthcoming and “transparent” regarding their operations, in order to keep the public abreast of their activities and assured that all is well at Coles Hill.

Both of these reports tell us what we already knew, that no one can truly say what would happen in Southside if uranium mining and milling were allowed to go forth.

They both say, in essence, we have no idea how this would really turn out. The only way to know that is to try it and see what happens.

It is an easy way for Chmura and RTI International, purveyors of the reports, to make a neat sum of money for telling us we would likely end up as lab rats for the uranium industry if mining is allowed. They don’t know, VUI obviously doesn’t know, and that leaves us just where we were before: nowhere and knowing nothing.

Of course VUI immediately trotted out their cheerleaders and fireworks, decreeing that the reports were proof positive that if they and their Canadian cohorts were to have their way, everyone in Southside would become rich and that absolutely no harm would result on any level.

That is one side of the story.

If we look at the regulations on coal mining in Virginia, and how well they have been enforced, I for one am not heartened by that possibility. Mining companies have consistently disregarded regulation of their operations, and the resulting cost in human suffering and the devastation to the environment in the coal fields of Southwest Virginia has been shameful and continues to be so.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has told us that there is no money in the state coffers for some of the most basic services the state once offered. Where would the money come from to create a new regulatory agency for uranium mining? How much would that cost the taxpayers of Virginia?

And regarding the NRC regulating uranium milling, as is its province, we all know that the current Congress is hard at work attempting to do away with or at least cripple the NRC, the EPA and any other regulatory agency that they think might get in the way of “progress.”

Our own congressman, Robert Hurt, son of a VUI investor, has made it his stated goal to do away with regulation of industry by government. He still believes that the fox is a fine candidate for minding the henhouse.

So the question remains, would uranium mining and milling really be regulated to the highest standards as stipulated by the study? Probably not.

The bottom line is this: how can we trust a legislature to enforce non-existent uranium mining rules when they have done such a pitiable job of enforcing the rules over other forms of mining in Virginia? And how can we trust federal regulatory agencies to do their jobs when they have been gutted by the lobbying efforts of the mining and manufacturing interest over the past 10 years?

How are we to believe that those agencies and that limited liability corporation will ever act in our best interest? I do not believe they will.

According to the study, the only way uranium mining would work in Virginia, for better or worse, is for those of us who have everything to lose and nothing to gain to click our heels three time and repeat, “there’s no faith like blind faith, there’s no faith like blind faith...”

Go, Dorothy, go.

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