Opponents of uranium mining in Virginia claimed victory when a proposal to study its risks and benefits was killed in the General Assembly. A moratorium on uranium mining has been in effect in Virginia for 25 years.
But Walter Coles Sr., president of Virginia Uranium LLC, says his company will continue its exploratory work on his farm in Pittsylvania County near Chatham.
“We will still pursue a way to move forward in executing a study that is independent and unbiased and that can do the comprehensive research program and collecting of data to just get the facts,” he says. His company has completed the collection phase of its exploratory drilling and now will move on to testing and analyzing core samples.
Pittsylvania County is believed to contain 110 million pounds of uranium, which, if true, would make it the largest uranium deposit in the United States. The demand for uranium has jumped in recent years as interest in nuclear energy has revived.
Mining opponents believe that it would harm soil and groundwater and endanger the health of local residents. The Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville says on its Web site that any study into the issue needs to “be carefully developed and not fast-tracked.”
Coles says that he doesn’t know how he’s going to proceed at this point, but he doesn’t want to move forward with a study removed from the political process. He would prefer that any research done have some connection to state government. His options include having the study conducted by a state university or state foundation or putting the measure before the General Assembly again next year.
“In the end, if we ever move forward, the state has got to regulate it and provide the oversight and enforcement, so they have got to be educated and become involved with it early on,” he says.
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