Company begins drilling in hopes of overturning uranium mining ban
- February 1, 2008
by Heather B. Hayes
There has been a moratorium on mining for uranium in Virginia for 25 years, but that hasn’t stopped a Pittsylvania County company from exploring the possibilities.
Using a permit from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Virginia Uranium LLC, a startup owned by Walter Coles, began drilling for core samples of uranium on his family’s farm just outside of Chatham in Pittsylvania County. The drilling is expected to take six to nine months.
“We need to redefine the ore body, to confirm that it contains 110 million pounds as was suggested 25 years ago [by the Marline Corp.],” Coles explains. He believes that technology has advanced enough since the 1980s to make uranium mining safe.
Renewed interest in uranium mining is the result of a growing demand for alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power. Currently, most uranium is mined in France, Canada and Australia.
Coles and his investors hope that the General Assembly will set up a study commission to determine whether uranium mining could be done without contaminating streams and groundwater. Coles predicts that the General Assembly would lift the moratorium if the commission decides that the mining process is safe.
Many local residents and environmental groups, however, strongly oppose the exploratory drilling. They are skeptical of claims that uranium can be mined safely.
“A handful of folks here will make a lot of money if this comes to pass,” Chatham resident Linda Worsley wrote in a letter to the Danville Register& Bee. “The rest of us will wake up wondering every day if ‘human error’ or ‘inaccurate science’ will render our backyards a hazardous wasteland.”