Key entity wants ban

Jan. 24, 2013 @ 07:14 PM

A key government entity has taken a stand against uranium mining in Virginia, a positive sign for environmentalists of the area and Kerr Lake enthusiasts who feel mining could harm the Roanoke River Basin.

Virginia lawmakers have been asked by the Board of Supervisors in Pittsylvania County to keep in place a moratorium on uranium mining. The supervisors approved the resolution Wednesday.

Virginia’s General Assembly has legislation proposed awaiting a vote that would establish regulatory guidelines on uranium mining, which was banned in 1982.

Virginia Uranium Inc. is hoping to mine the Coles Hill site, which was discovered in the 1970s before uranium prices dropped. Coles Hill is near Chatham, about 50 miles as the crow flies from Henderson and Kerr Lake, in Pittsylvania County.

Prices have dramatically risen since 1982 and the site is estimated at $7 billion with a 119-million pound deposit.

Several members of the Pittsylvania board had attempted unsuccessfully several times last year to pass a similar resolution.

The legislation proposed in the General Assembly would limit uranium mining to the Pittsylvania County deposit and Virginia Uranium Inc.

Among the concerns is uranium waste. Estimates say the site would have at least 28 million tons, which would remain radioactive for thousands of years. It would need to be contained indefinitely onsite.

The local ground-water sources and downstream drinking water sources, including Kerr Lake in Vance County, provide drinking water for more than 1.9 million people, including in the Virginia Beach area.

The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce had earlier surveyed its member businesses to determine if it should take a position and if so what it should be. The chamber has formally taken a position against lifting the ban.

Contact the awooten@hendersondispatch.com.