Tuesday, December 17, 2013

VUI News: Virginia Uranium scales back mining efforts, opponent calls it a victory

Virginia Uranium scales back mining efforts

By BRITTANY HUGHES bhughes@registerbee.com (434) 791-7986 | Posted: Monday, December 16, 2013 6:27 pm 
Merely a few weeks before the start of the 2014 General Assembly session, Virginia Uranium Inc. announced it has suspended plans to back legislation that would have pushed its goal of mining a uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County.

Virginia Uranium Inc., sub-company of Virginia Energy Resources Inc., wanted to mine a 119-million-pound uranium deposit on Coles Hill. The pitch was fueled by the claim that mining efforts would boost the local economy and create hundreds of jobs in the Dan River Region.

But public health and environmental concerns have so far restricted the company from mining the ore, with opponents saying the process could affect drinking water and farmland in the surrounding area. Virginia has had a moratorium on uranium mining for more than 30 years.

According to VUI Project Manager and Spokesperson Patrick Wales, the company will use the next year to consider its next move, but that the pause doesn’t mean VUI has abandoned its objective.
“We’re currently re-evaluating all our options moving forward, but we’re committed to the project,” Wales said. “We need to be prudent and judicious about our prospects and legislation moving through.”

Though McAuliffe’s promise was a setback for the mining company, Wales said it doesn’t mean VUI won’t try to move forward legislatively during McAuliffe’s term.

“I think it’s too early to tell what future sessions may hold, and we’re certainly going to continue our dialogue with the legislature and hopefully with the incoming administration,” Wales said. “Anything beyond [the 2014 session] would be premature to speculate.”

Andrew Lester, executive director for the Roanoke River Basin Association said his organization fully supports VUI’s recent decision.

“We’re very happy VUI has decided not to pursue uranium mining at this point,” he said.

“We’re also very happy with Gov.-elect McAuliffe’s comments against uranium mining,” Lester added, saying the association had met with McAuliffe several times during his campaign to “get him up to speed” on the mining debate. The most recent meeting was in April, Lester said.

“He told us at that time that he just couldn’t see how he could go along with it, given the current concerns,” Lester said.

As for uranium mining’s future in the General Assembly, Lester said he fully expects the topic to be revisited.

“It’s like kudzu,” he said. “As long as it’s in the ground, it’s going to keep coming back up.”


Virginia Uranium scales back mining efforts, opponent calls it a victory

By Justin Ward, jward@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 16 2013 06:27:48 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 16 2013 06:28:12 PM CST
PITTSYLVANIA CO.,Va. - It's likely a ban on uranium mining will stay in play for the next four years.

The company pushing Virginia lawmakers to lift the ban says it's suspending some of its efforts because of an unsupportive incoming governor.

Virginia Uranium Incorporated is re-evaluating its business plan over the next two months and not lobbying as hard in Richmond during the next general assembly.

But it's also not throwing in the towel.

"We're going through that process right now to evaluate how we're going to move the project forward, but we are committed to the project for the long haul," said Patrick Wales, project manager for Virginia Uranium, Inc

A 30 year moratorium on uranium mining has kept it in place now but the company that wants to mine here is scaling back its efforts and is discouraged.

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe wants to keep the uranium buried saying he'll veto any bill lifting the moratorium.
"We're hopeful we can put in place a strategy that will advance the project over 2014 and over the next four years," Wales said.
Wales says the company isn't going anywhere and will continue to look at ways to educate lawmakers and the community on uranium energy.
Supporters are optimistic lifting the ban will help the economy with new jobs but opponents are concerned about the negative stigma and environmental impacts.
Opponents like Ben Davenport, an influential businessman who chairs a natural gas and a waste management company in Chatham, say this is a victory.
"In life we have winners and losers and this time we won big time with the governor saying so profoundly he would veto any kind of legislation that came forward," Davenport said.
Davenport founded the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia, a group of other businesses against mining.
"This was the first time I had ever opposed a job creator but in fact we felt like we might have a few jobs in the beginning but then we would have the legacy of the uranium, and becoming the uranium capitol of the east coast," Davenport said.

Other opponents say they're still sending as much support to Richmond as they did this last general assembly session to lobby against mining.