Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Uranium: Local businesses oppose mining/ McClellan: Virginia can live without uranium mines /

Comments:  A beautifully written editorial. The Chamber has put incredible time, effort, thought and expertise into researching this issue. The editorial reflects it all.
Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 7:42 pm, Sat Jan 12, 2013. Uranium: Local businesses oppose mining
Laurie S. Moran
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Approximately 30 years ago, uranium was discovered at Coles Hill, located in Pittsylvania County in southern Virginia. At that time, the company that discovered the deposit began testing to learn more about the uranium deposit, in hopes of mining it. In 1982, the Commonwealth of Virginia established a moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.Due to declining market prices for uranium, interest in developing the resource at Coles Hill waned, and the company’s mineral leases expired. But in recent years, there is a renewed interest in the uranium deposit.As a result, the commonwealth is considering whether to end its 30-year moratorium on uranium mining and milling.
For the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, this is one of the most important issues to impact our community, our businesses and our commonwealth because Coles Hill is the only uranium site in Virginia ready to be mined and milled should the Virginia General Assembly lift the current moratorium.
The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business, pro-economic development organization, comprising almost 700 member enterprises. The Chamber is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business, and enhancing the quality of life. Our Chamber represents the region which includes Pittsylvania County, where Coles Hill is located.
The Board of Directors of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce has engaged in a thoughtful deliberation in considering a position on uranium mining and milling that focused on our membership, the economic vitality and sustainability of our region, and the core values to which we adhere. We intentionally did not rush into a position.
As part of the Chamber’s deliberation, Chamber members — the region’s business community — were asked to submit remarks to the organization that focused on whether the Chamber should take a position, what position the Chamber should take if we took a position, and how the proposed uranium mine and mill would impact their businesses.
We pledged to our members that their responses would remain confidential, as this issue has become extremely divisive and contentious in our community.
After a comprehensive review, and despite multiple studies and informational forums, our Chamber still has significant questions. We do not believe uranium can be mined and milled safely — without incident or harm to the health, economy and environment of the surrounding region — at the Coles Hill site.
While considering possible economic benefits of such an industry, our Chamber still has significant concerns surrounding the potential impact of uranium mining and milling on existing businesses and the region’s ability to attract, retain and grow jobs.
Our region has suffered tremendous job losses in past years; however, we have made significant strides in recent years to attract new, high-wage, high-skill jobs for our region.
We are working tirelessly to transform our economy from one that almost collapsed with the demise of the tobacco and textile industries to an economy that provides expanded opportunity and increased well-being for all the region’s residents.
After careful consideration, the Board of Directors of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce believes there are still too many questions and uncertainties that could have negative irreversible consequences on our region and on our Commonwealth.
Those grave concerns led to the adoption of a position to strongly encourage the Virginia General Assembly to maintain the moratorium on uranium mining and milling in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to oppose the development of a uranium permitting program and regulatory framework that would effectively end the state’s moratorium.
We hope the members of the Virginia General Assembly will listen to and respect the voice of business from the region most impacted by this issue.
Laurie S. Moran is president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her at

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:38 am, Sun Jan 13, 2013.
McClellan: Virginia can live without uranium mines

Jennifer McClellanRichmond Times-Dispatch
The 2013 Virginia General Assembly session convened on Wednesday. During this “short session,” we will amend the budget covering the current fiscal year and address thousands of bills covering a wide range of issues. One hotly contested issue is whether to lift the 30-year moratorium on uranium mining and milling in Virginia. In the late 1970s, a significant amount of uranium deposits were discovered at the Coles Hill farm in Pittsylvania County. A Canadian company made plans to mine the deposit, and secured leases on many other potential deposits throughout the Piedmont.
However, the state had no regulations to cover such an activity, and in 1982, the Virginia legislature enacted a ban on mining while a state commission studied the potential impacts of uranium production. When global uranium prices began to fall, interest in mining waned, no regulations were ever developed, and the ban remained in effect.
In late 2011, two state-sponsored studies were issued on the impacts of uranium mining to determine whether the socio-economic benefits of mining one of the largest deposits of uranium ore in the world outweigh the environmental, health and safety risks.
The National Academy of Science’s study concluded that if Virginia lifts the moratorium, “there are steep hurdles to be surmounted before mining and processing could be established in a way that is appropriately protective of the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment.”
The study noted that there is limited experience in the United States, and none in Virginia, with modern underground and open-pit uranium processing. Unlike the western states that mine uranium, Virginia’s climate is prone to flooding and groundwater contamination.
Proponents of lifting the ban cite the need to expand nuclear energy capability, reduce our dependence on foreign fuel, and the estimated 1,000 jobs uranium mining will bring to Southern Virginia.
A majority of the people in Southern Virginia have expressed opposition to lifting the ban, including the area’s legislators, local governments and the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce (in a column on today’s Commentary front), concluding that the potential risks far outweigh the potential and yet unknown rewards.
These risks include the health impacts of exposure to uranium, contamination of drinking water from Pittsylvania County to Virginia Beach and negative impacts on the region’s existing businesses, property values and ability to attract, retain and grow jobs.
The negative impacts from uranium mining and milling will far outlast the actual operation of the mine. The waste product of uranium mining, known as “tailings,” retains significant amounts of uranium as well as by-products, such as radium and thorium, heavy metals including lead, arsenic, and mercury, and other toxic materials. The Coles Hill site is estimated to produce at least 28 million tons of uranium waste, which will remain radioactive for thousands of years and need to be contained on-site indefinitely.
Failure of the waste storage facility could result in the contamination of local groundwater sources and downstream drinking water sources for more than 1.9 million people in Halifax, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and North Carolina. The regulatory framework to govern the process could cost up to $5 million annually.
This issue is not limited to Southern Virginia, as there are concerns that the ban will be lifted statewide — in addition to Coles Hill, uranium deposits have been identified in the Piedmont region and water basins such as the Occoquan. Nor is the impact of the mining and storage of uranium in Coles Hill restricted to the immediate geographic area.
For these reasons, the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Counties, the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Fairfax and Fauquier Water Authorities, environmental organizations, and local governments from practically every community downstream from the proposed site, from Halifax to Virginia Beach, and the entire Roanoke River Basin community, all oppose lifting the ban. Even Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, recently announced his opposition to lifting the ban.
Last week, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission endorsed a proposal by Sen. John Watkins to require the state to draft uranium-mining regulations. This essentially lifts the ban. However, Senator Watkins has stated his bill will allow mining only at the Coles Hill site. Only time will tell if this is enough to overcome significant opposition to the bill.
Jennifer McClellan, a Richmond Democrat, represents the 71st District in the Virginia House of Delegates. Contact her at

http://wlni.com/2013/01/smith-mtn-lake-association-opposes-lift-of-uranium-ban/ January 11, 2013
The Smith Mountain Lake Association is expressing opposition to lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia. Members of the Association’s Board of Directors have reviewed Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Working Group report on uranium mining and other reports and concluding they found no compelling evidence for lifting the ban. SMLA says more comprehensive regulations and resources are needed to ensure minimized risk to public health and safety. The Virginia General Assembly will decide during this winter’s session, whether or not to lift a 30-year-old moratorium.Smith Mtn.