Monday, August 12, 2013

Questions at the heart of the matterThe

Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 6:00 am The Editorial

Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy will respond to a report that was critical of the agency’s handling of exploratory drilling at Coles Hill in 2007.
That exploratory drilling was done to study the size and quality of the 119-million pound uranium ore body underneath Coles Hill, pastoral farmland about six miles northeast of Chatham. For most Dan River Region residents, news of that drilling was also the first indication that they had that another company was interested in mining uranium at Coles Hill.

Researcher Paul Robinson prepared the report for the Roanoke River Basin Association, and his findings raise serious questions about DDME and the work it did to protect the environment on this project.

"We believe that there is a great deal of info in the report that needs to be clarified, and in some cases, corrected," DDME Public Relations Manager Mike Abbott said. "… We have been working on some information we plan to put out here shortly. Basically, what we’re trying to do here is put out some background info on the exploration project."

Corrections, clarifications and background — all are welcome at this point, especially in response to one state agency’s work on such a high-stakes project.

This controversy goes to the heart of the uranium mining debate in Virginia — that the state government doesn’t currently possess the technical skill needed to manage such a high-risk mineral mining project like what Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to do in our community.

It’s a testament to the inherent risk of uranium mining that all of the region’s legislators and business leaders — along with most of the local governments from here to the coast — don’t support VUI’s project.

Into that political minefield the DDME promises a response.

We’re not concerned with hurt feelings and agency pride, we need to know two things from the DDME: Were its regulations followed by VUI, and more importantly, were its regulations adequate to protect the health of Virginians?

The first should be fairly easy to determine; the second is at the heart of the debate over uranium mining in Virginia.