State Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian) plans to sponsor a bill in the next General Assembly session that would establish regulations for uranium mining and milling in Virginia.
Virginia Uranium Inc. is lobbying the legislature to lift the commonwealth’s 30-year-old moratorium on uranium mining. The company wants to mine and mill an estimated 119 million-pound uranium deposit in the Coles Hill community near Chatham in Pittsylvania County. It is the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the U.S.
Since last spring, representatives from several state agencies, the Governor’s Uranium Working Group, have been holding hearings around the state about possible state regulations for the uranium mining and milling. The group issued a report on a regulatory framework for the uranium industry late last week .
“After studying the work that the Governor’s Uranium Working Group (UWG) delivered last week, I believe it is appropriate for us to formulate legislation to lift the moratorium on uranium mining and milling,” Watkins said a in statement Monday. “Toward that end, I have made a request to Legislative Services for legislation that adheres to the principles outlined by the UWG and intend to be the patron of such a bill. I invite my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation to establish a robust state regulatory program for uranium mining.”
He noted that passage of regulatory legislation would not authorize mining immediately but would be the first step in a process that could take five to eight years.
“I am aware that some of my colleagues remain skeptical about this issue,” Watkins said in his statement. “But I am confident that the information contained in the many reports and studies that have been done over the past three years and the body of knowledge we obtained on the issue 30 years ago, as well as numerous examples of safe and successful uranium mining around the world, will lead them to the same conclusions to which I have come: Today uranium mining is done safely around the world and Virginia is capable of mining it safely, too. “
Watkins has tracked Virginia’s interest in uranium mining during the course of his legislative career. It was one of the first issues he tackled as a freshman legislator in 1982 when another company proposed mining the same uranium deposit.
“Uranium mining presents a unique opportunity to create jobs and economic development while contributing to our nation’s energy independence,” he said in a statement.
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