Thursday, December 26, 2013

Good news in uranium mining delay

Flooded Area of Proposed Uranium Mine and Tailing Ponds

Comments:  I agree with the following statements from KM:

The recent stories regarding uranium below have a common ain't over til it's over.  Until there is a constitutional amendment to ban uranium mining, it ain't over by a long shot.  As long as the Code of Virginia allows uranium exploration, it ain't over.  Our legislators appear to be letting things slide in this issue this year...mistake, big mistake.  Take the opportunity to tell tell them at every opportunity.
Good news in mining delay
 The Virginian-Pilot
December 23, 2013
Virginia Uranium Inc.'s recent announcement that it was temporarily abandoning its effort to establish rules for mining was welcome news, confirmation that the incoming governor's veto threat had the desired effect.

The company has long hoped to extract $7 billion worth of uranium from its property in Pittsylvania County, but a statewide ban has prevented mining since 1982 because of the risks to drinking water supplies and agriculture.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on studies to determine whether there is risk

An extensive report by the National Academy of Sciences raised concerns about the long-term storage of radioactive tailings and suggested the remote possibility that heavy rains, hurricanes and other adverse weather could result in contamination of private wells and the watershed that feeds Lake Gaston.

That's unlikely but still possible - but it could lead to contaminated wells and worries about the water supply for 1 million people in Hampton Roads. The mining debris, the academy's study noted, would be radioactive for centuries.

Walter Coles Sr. has lobbied lawmakers and contributed nearly $300,000 to their campaigns to try to overturn the ban. His chief legislative advocate, Sen. John Watkins, a Midlothian Republican, cited industry studies that deemed the mining technology advanced and the chance of malfunction or contamination minuscule.

While Gov. Bob McDonnell refused to take a stand on whether to lift the mining ban, the studies led Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the Danville-Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Farm Bureau and a bipartisan bloc of state lawmakers and city councils to conclude that the benefits of mining uranium in Virginia simply don't outweigh the risks.

Fortunately, Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe's statement last month that he would veto any bill lifting the moratorium cinched Virginia Uranium's decision not to pursue legislation in 2014.
n a statement a week ago, Patrick Wales, the company's project manager, said: "We are in this for the long haul and are committed to developing the Coles Hill project. We will continue evaluating all options to move the project forward."

Any halt in the mining campaign helps Hampton Roads and the commonwealth. It also means members of the General Assembly can focus on legislation that will move Virginia forward.

 Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 7:30 am
Editorial Board

Terry McAuliffe won’t officially become Virginia’s governor until next month, but he is already shaping the Dan River Region.
  Recently, the governor-elect told a Norfolk newspaper that he would veto any uranium mining legislation that passed the General Assembly.

But no uranium mining legislation has passed the General Assembly since Virginia Uranium first announced in 2007 that it wanted to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County.

That political climate — and McAuliffe’s announcement — has compelled Virginia Uranium to take 2014 off and reconsider its controversial proposal.

“We’re currently reevaluating all our options moving forward, but we’re committed to the project,” said PatrickWales, a geologist and VUI spokesman. “We need to be prudent and judicious about our prospects and legislation moving through.”

For this year, the prospects don’t look good.

Local governments — including Pittsylvania County’s — can’t stop uranium mining, which requires state approval. But that hasn’t prevented local governments from Chatham to Virginia Beach from supporting resolutions in favor the state’s existing moratorium on uranium mining.

On this issue, the business community (the Danville Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation) joined with the environmental community to fight uranium mining.

Even the study VUI wanted in 2007 never gave concerned citizens and their legislators the confidence they needed to move forward. The National Academy of Sciences report — the first one VUI wanted — talked about the “steep hurdles” the state would have to overcome if it approved uranium mining.

VUI’s proposed Coles Hill project raised hundreds of questions just like that. At the same time, the expected “nuclear renaissance” in this country hasn’t happened;

Given the uphill political fight facing Virginia Uranium, the company wisely decided to call time out.

But the past six years has taught people concerned about this issue a valuable lesson: As long as that 119-million-pound deposit of uranium ore is there, someone will want to mine it.

VUI’s effort to mine uranium at Coles Hill is temporarily suspended, but all that means is the company and its backers are looking for the next step.

“It’s like kudzu,” said Andrew Lester, executive director for the Roanoke River Basin Association. “As long as it’s in the ground, it’s going to keep coming back up.”

Is Uranium Mining Alarming People from Southside Virginia?
January 17, 2013
By Alix Hines
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – When people come to Southside Virginia, Adam Lynch said, they are looking for nature, clean air, lakes and pretty mountains.

Lynch, a Realtor for Prudential Waterfront Properties and consultant for Charles Lynch Construction, said the thought of having a uranium mine in their backyard is driving people away from the area.

“I’m more of a residential Realtor. But on the more commercial side, it may keep people from bringing business into our area just because the negative connotation of what a mine would bring with it,” Lynch said.

Delegate Don Merricks, a Republican from Pittsylvania County, said he has talked to Realtors who are having trouble selling homes because the General Assembly is considering allowing uranium mining there.

That prospect is hurting private schools in the area, too. Merricks said Chatham Hall, a prestigious private school for girls, has noticed parents “shopping around” and putting their children elsewhere because of concerns about the proposed mine.

For the more than 30 years, Virginia has had a moratorium against uranium mining. But lawmakers are considering lifting it to allow the mining of an immense uranium deposit near Coles Hill in Chatham.

The site where the mining, milling and tailings disposal would occur is a 20-minute drive from the girls’ school that houses students from across the country and the globe.

Samantha Parsons, a student at George Mason University and resident of the nearby town of Hurt, said the proximity would deter people from applying to Chatham Hall and Hargrave Military Academy, a private boys’ school.

“Hargrave and Chatham Hall are there, and people from across the country send their students there, and they’re not going to want to do that,” Parsons said. “It [the private schools] definitely helps the economy of Chatham with those students being there and their families coming to visit all the time.”
While Parson fears that uranium mining would hurt the Southside economy, mining proponents say just the opposite.

Many residents of Southside Virginia remain unconvinced.

“It seems like the prices (of uranium) fluctuate dramatically,” Lynch said. “When the mining operations aren’t profitable, they just shut down. There will be some people in the area that make a lot of money out of this, whereas the majority of us, when the prices go down, are going to be stuck with an empty uranium mine.”

Merricks said he personally supports the mining of uranium. However, he said the state should heed the wishes of local residents: If a clear majority of people oppose lifting the moratorium, Merricks says it should stay in place.

According to federal law, Merricks said, the tailings must remain on the site where the milling occurred. The legislator fears what could happen to the tailings in a climate where hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are a possibility.

Parsons shares that concern.

“The risk that we are facing in Virginia is that if a tornado comes through, or a hurricane that we’ve been experiencing, something that produces a lot of rain and it seeps into the ground, it will make that radiation leak throughout the ground, and it could contaminate water systems,” Parsons said.

Many residents of Southside Virginia rely on well water. The possibility of water contamination could make home and business buyers think twice about moving to the region, some residents say.

“I wish they would just go ahead and just keep the ban in place so we don’t have to fight over this for a few years,” Lynch said. “I think even exploring their options could hurt us more than it could help us as far as the perception [of Southside] to outside businesses and potential home buyers.”

Legislators such as Sen. John Watkins and Delegate Lee Ware, who represent districts on the outskirts of the Richmond area, are spearheading the drive to lift the moratorium against uranium mining.

“I was going to suggest that since Sen. Watkins from Powhatan and Delegate Ware of Powhatan are so adamant about doing this, why don’t we just haul the ore up there and mill it in Powhatan County?” Merricks said jokingly.

Uranium mining too dangerous for Virginia
Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 am
Correspondent of the Day: Uranium mining too dangerous for Virginia
Uranium mining too dangerous for Virginia
We all should be concerned about the possibility of the 2014 Virginia General Assembly’s attempting to lift the 30-plus-year moratorium on the mining of uranium.
Uranium ore deposits have been found in the geologic Triassic Basin that runs throughout the Piedmont of Virginia.

In November, The Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro wrote that Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe “declared he would reject legislation lifting Virginia’s three-decade ban on uranium mining.” Let’s hope the governor keeps his promise.
Uranium mining and milling have never taken place in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. Our environment is unlike the arid mines in the West. We get torrential downpours from tropical storms, with some dropping as much as 12 inches of rain.
Another primary concern relates to the disposal of radioactive waste. Once the ore is excavated, the rock is pulverized and acids are used to remove the uranium. The mines in Pittsylvania County alone would create 30 million tons of hazardous waste to be deposited in subsurface pits. After the yellowcake is extracted, the waste remains radioactive due to radium and thorium residues.

 Unfortunately, these wastes remain nearly 85 percent radioactive for more than 75,000 years. Who will protect us from this danger?
Millions of tons of radioactive waste in a wet climate could spell disaster should the moratorium be lifted.

Not only would Southside be affected by mining; extracting other deposits in the Piedmont could impact the water quality of the Rappahannock, Potomac and James rivers.

Uranium mining is a statewide environmental issue and those elected to govern need to keep the moratorium in place to ensure the safety of Virginia’s water.
Mark Wittofski. Henrico.