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(last updated 18 Feb 2017)
Groups raise concern over appointments for uranium mining study:
The Roanoke River Basin Association and the Dan River Basin Association are recommending that the National Academy of Sciences investigate the backgrounds and professional relationships of several appointees to the provisional committee that will study uranium mining in Virginia to ensure no conflicts of interest, according to association officials.
The Roanoke River and Dan River Basin Associations also are requesting that the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources that is overseeing this study recruit additional individuals with expertise in hydrology, geo-hydrology, human health and post-mining tailings management to serve on the committee, officials added. (The Gazette-Virginian Aug. 23, 2010)
National Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech agree to conduct study of uranium mining and milling in Virginia: The long-awaited study of uranium mining and milling in Virginia has been given the green light to proceed. The National Academy of Sciences and Virginia Tech have agreed to the study. The NAS will conduct the study. (Danville Register Feb. 23, 2010)
Virginia panel OKs uranium mining study: A Virginia coal and energy panel on Thursday (May 21, 2009) approved the framework of a scientific study on proposed uranium mining in the state, saying they want to make safety their top priority. A subcommittee of the Virginia Commission on Coal and Energy amended a list of recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences on what to include in the study. It would range from market trends to technical practices to health risks, but would not take a position for or against the mining. (The News & Observer May 21, 2009)
Virginia state panel subcommittee approves first phase of uranium study:
On March 24, 2009, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission's Uranium Mining Subcommittee took a critical step toward a study to determine whether uranium can be mined and milled safely in the commonwealth.
The subcommittee unanimously approved a draft of the study's first phase outlining the technical and scientific aspects of the analysis that Michael Karmis, director of the Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, said would take about 18 months.
However, the second portion of the study that would address the socioeconomic aspects of uranium mining and milling will be decided upon at a later date, Delegate Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, said after the meeting held in the General Assembly Building. (Danville Register March 24, 2009)
Virginia state panel votes for uranium study: The Virginia Commission on Coal and Energy voted 12-0 today to study whether uranium can be safely mined in Virginia. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Nov. 6, 2008)
Virginia House Panel rejects study of uranium mining:
Lawmakers concerned about land, air and drinking water contamination killed a proposal on March 3, 2008, that would have allowed a study of whether uranium can be safely mined on 200 acres in south-central Virginia, eliminating any chance that the controversial bill could pass this year.
After more than an hour of debate, the House Rules Committee defeated a bill that opponents argued would be the first step toward lifting a 25-year-old state ban on uranium mining.
The bill would have created a 17-member commission to oversee a National Academy of Sciences study. The company would have picked up the cost of the report, which had been estimated at $1 million or more. If the study had shown that mining could be done safely, Virginia Uranium could have used it as leverage in asking the General Assembly to lift the ban on uranium mining. (Washington Post Mar. 4, 2008)
Senate of Virginia approves uranium mining study: The Senate of Virginia has passed legislation establishing a two-year study on the safety of uranium mining. The study eventually could result in lifting the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. (Daily Press, Feb. 12, 2008)
Federal appeals court affirms Virginia uranium mining ban:
A federal appeals court on Friday (Feb. 17) rejected a Virginia company's bid to end the state's decades-long ban on uranium mining so it can tap a huge deposit of the radioactive ore.
A divided panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld the ruling of a district judge, who in December 2015 threw out a lawsuit from Virginia Uranium Inc.
(Roanoke Times Feb. 17, 2017)
> Download Published Opinion , Feb. 17, 2017 (113k PDF)
Groups seek dismissal of lawsuit aimed at ending Virginia's ban on uranium mining:
Two river-protection groups are seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit aimed at ending Virginia's 1982 ban on the mining of the radioactive ore.
The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Wise County Circuit Court on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association and the Dan River Basin Association . Both groups have opposed uranium mining because they fear it will harm waterways in Southside Virginia and North Carolina.
Attorneys for Virginia Uranium Inc. have gone to state and federal courts in hopes of tapping a rich uranium deposit in Pittsylvania County.
In both legal challenges, the company contends Virginia's ban is unconstitutional. In the Circuit Court claim, the company is seeking compensation totaling nearly $500 million for what it argues is the taking of its property. (Daily Journal Mar. 24, 2016)
Judge dismisses lawsuit that sought to overturn Virginia's ban on uranium mining:
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday (Dec. 2) that sought to overturn Virginia's ban on uranium mining.
The lawsuit was filed by Virginia Uranium, the company that wants to mine a large deposit in Pittsylvania County.
Judge Jackson Kiser granted the state's motion to throw out the lawsuit Wednesday morning. He ruled that the Atomic Energy Act does not bar the state from regulating or banning uranium mining.
(WDBJ7 Dec. 2, 2015)
> Download Judge Jackson Kiser's dismissal order, Case No. 4:15-cv-00031 (95k PDF)
> Download Judge Jackson Kiser's Memorandum Opinion, Case No. 4:15-cv-00031 (253k PDF)
In January 2016, attorneys for Virginia Uranium filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. (Roanoke Times Jan. 14, 2016)
Virginia Uranium Inc. files second lawsuit over state's uranium mining moratorium: Virginia Uranium Inc. has filed a second lawsuit seeking to lift the state ban on uranium mining, the Chatham-based company announced Wednesday (Nov. 25). Virginia Uranium filed the lawsuit in Wise County Circuit Court against Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other officials of the commonwealth. The suit requests either lifting the ban on uranium mining or compensation for the taking of the plaintiff's property. The company estimates the uranium deposit under its Coles Hill site near Chatham is worth about $6 billion. (Roanoke Times Nov. 25, 2015)
Motion filed to dismiss lawsuit against Virginia's uranium mining moratorium:
A motion filed Tuesday (Aug. 25) in Danville federal court demands a lawsuit against the commonwealth over uranium mining be dismissed. An assistant Attorney General for Virginia filed the motion on behalf of Governor Terry McAuliffe and several of his secretaries.
(WDBJ7 Aug. 25, 2015)
A representative of the Roanoke River Basin Association tells ABC 13 that they and the Dan River Basin Association have filed a motion to intervene in court, which means they want to join the state in the lawsuit and act as an ally. They also said they filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. (WSET Sep. 4, 2015)
In an opinion released Monday (Oct. 19), Senior United States District Court Judge Jackson Kiser denied both the Danville River Basin Association and the Roanoke River Basin Association from entering a lawsuit filed by Virginia Uranium Inc. seeking to lift the state ban on uranium mining. (Roanoke Times Oct. 19, 2015)
Virginia Uranium Inc. sues Virginia over state's uranium mining moratorium:
A company that wants to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County petitioned a court Wednesday (Aug. 5) to overturn Virginia's 33-year ban on the practice.
Virginia Uranium Inc. of Chatham said in a news release that it tried without success to negotiate a resolution to the conflict. It now wants the federal court in Danville to invalidate the ban on uranium mining and direct Virginia mining regulators to process a company application for a mining permit. (The Roanoke Times Aug. 5, 2015)
Virginia Uranium Inc. suspends campaign to lift uranium mining moratorium in Virginia: A company is suspending its campaign to mine one of the world's largest known deposits of the radioactive ore in Virginia, citing Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe's opposition. Virginia Uranium Inc. said it will not support the introduction of uranium mining legislation in the 2014 session of the General Assembly, which would be a first step to mine a 119-million-pound deposit of uranium in Pittsylvania County known as Coles Hill. (WJLA Dec. 14, 2013)
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce votes for maintaining Virginia's uranium mining ban: The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is no longer neutral in the uranium mining debate. Leading members for the first time have formally voiced support for preserving a 31-year Virginia moratorium that's been a key hindrance to mining for the radioactive rock. By a 37-11 vote, chamber officials favored maintaining the ban following presentations from mining foes and those seeking clearance to access a Pittsylvania County parcel with a rich deposit of the ore used in nuclear power plants. (Virginia Pilot Nov. 16, 2013)
Lobbying spending to end uranium moratorium highest in Virginia: A company that unsuccessfully pushed to end Virginia's decades-old ban on uranium mining was by far the biggest spender on lobbying at the statehouse over the past year. New lobbyist disclosure reports show Virginia Uranium Inc. spent more than $572,000, almost twice as much as the nearly $300,000 spent by second-place Dominion. (Herald-Leader Aug. 29, 2013)
Legislation to lift Virginia uranium mining ban withdrawn by sponsor: The sponsor of legislation that would have allowed uranium mining in Virginia has withdrawn his bill amid almost certain defeat in a Senate committee. Sen. John Watkins withdrew the bill Thursday (Jan. 31) before the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources was to hear it. A companion bill remains in the House, but its prospects of moving forward appear slim. Watkins' legislation would have created the regulatory structure to oversee uranium mining in Virginia, which would effectively end a 31-year prohibition on the mining of the radioactive ore. (Virginia Pilot Jan. 31, 2013)
Opponents of proposal to lift Virginia's uranium mining ban lined the streets of Richmond: A few hundred people gathered in Capitol Square before the day's legislative session. They lined the walkway between the General Assembly Building and the State Capitol, encouraging lawmakers to keep the state's ban on uranium mining. Bills have been introduced in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate that could lead to lifting the 30-year moratorium on uranium mining. (WDBJ7 Jan. 28, 2013)
Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors asks General Assembly to keep Virginia's uranium moratorium: The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 Wednesday (Jan. 23) to adopt a resolution requesting the General Assembly keep Virginia's 30-year moratorium on uranium. Supervisors also asked state lawmakers not to approve any Senate or House bill on uranium mining and milling. (Star-Tribune, Jan. 23, 2013)
Opponents of Virginia uranium ban gave gifts, donations to state lawmakers:
Interests lobbying the General Assembly to repeal a law banning uranium mining plied state legislators with nearly $140,000 in campaign contributions the past two years, according to data gleaned by a nonprofit and nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog.
Legislators also accepted gifts from Virginia Uranium Inc. valued at nearly $139,000, according to reports for 2011 and 2012 compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
(Richmond Times-Dispatch Jan. 21, 2013)
> View VPAP's Top Donors list
General Assembly study panel votes to lift Virginia's uranium mining ban: A General Assembly study panel voted Monday (Jan. 7) in favor of lifting Virginia's 31-year ban on uranium mining -- but only in one spot in Southside Virginia. The panel, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, endorsed a proposal by Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, to require the state to draft uranium-mining regulations. The issue goes now to the legislature, where both sides predict a close fight. The session begins Wednesday (Jan. 9). (Richmond Times-Dispatch Jan. 8, 2013)
Danville City Council unanimously votes for keeping Virginia's uranium mining ban: Danville City Council voted unanimously to show their support for keeping the ban in place in a meeting Thursday night (Jan. 3). Their resolution also states that they are against any currents efforts to begin writing regulation to control uranium mining. (WSET.com - ABC13 Jan. 3, 2013)
Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce passes statement encouraging uranium mining ban: The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution encouraging Virginia to keep its ban on uranium mining. In a statement, the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce says there are still "too many questions and uncertainties that could have negative irreversible consequences on our region" if the ban is lifted. (WDBJ7 Dec. 12, 2012)
Uranium Working Group delivers report on regulatory framework required, in case uranium mining moratorium in Virginia is lifted:
> View Virginia Governor release Nov. 30, 2012
> Download Uranium Working Group report, Nov. 30, 2012 (3.7MB PDF)
Southampton County supervisors vote for continued uranium mining ban in Virginia: Southampton County supervisors on Monday (Nov. 26) voted 5-1 to support continuing a ban on uranium mining in Virginia. (The Tidewater News Nov. 29, 2012)
Martinsville City Council backs Virginia uranium mining ban: Martinsville City Council on Tuesday (Nov. 27) officially voiced its support for keeping a ban on uranium mining in Virginia. In a unanimous vote, the council adopted a legislative agenda for 2013 that asks the General Assembly to maintain the moratorium because "engaging in uranium mining would result in highly damaging effects on all other economic development efforts in the region, excluding the jobs created by a mine itself." (Martinsville Bulletin Nov. 28, 2012)
Two statewide groups back uranium ban in Virginia: Two groups representing hundreds of Virginia cities, counties and towns are recommending that the General Assembly keep a 30-year ban on uranium mining in place. The Virginia Municipal League cites concerns about health and environmental issues related uranium mining, milling and disposal of radioactive-laced rock, while the Virginia Association of Counties wants the ban to stick "pending further study." The league represents all 39 cities, 157 towns and 10 counties, while the association represents the state's 95 counties. (AP Nov. 16, 2012)
Hampton Roads Planning District Commission backs uranium mining ban:
The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission has taken a stand against ending a 30-year ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
The resolution was approved by all but one voting member of the 16 cities and counties represented by the commission. The nonbinding resolution was passed last week.
The commission adopted a resolution that cites the threat to Lake Gaston, which provides one-third of the water to the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake. While the resolution states that the threat is "small," the consequences would be "enormous and unacceptable" for the region. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Sep. 25, 2012)
Suffolk council OKs resolution against uranium mining: The City Council added its voice to those of other Hampton Roads cities calling for the continuation of a 30-year ban on uranium mining in Virginia. By a unanimous vote, the council adopted a resolution Wednesday (Sep. 5) that opposes the mining and milling of uranium in Pittsylvania County, which it described as a potential threat to the region's water supply. (Virginia Pilot Sep. 6, 2012)
River commission wants Virginia uranium ban to stay: A commission composed of legislators from Virginia and North Carolina is urging Virginia to keep a 30-year ban on uranium mining in place. The resolution was approved Monday (Aug. 27) by the Roanoke River Basin Bi-State Commission, an advisory panel that makes recommendations to government officials on the use and stewardship of the Roanoke River Basin. (The Charlotte Observer Aug. 27, 2012)
Norfolk city council backs Virginia uranium mining moratorium: Norfolk: The City Council called unanimously on Tuesday (July 24) for a continuation of the state's moratorium on uranium mining to safeguard rivers and reservoirs that provide Norfolk's drinking water. (The Virginian-Pilot July 25, 2012)
Virginia Beach reaffirms opposition to uranium mining: The City Council on Tuesday night (June 12) reaffirmed its opposition to uranium mining in Virginia. The action comes after the completion of several studies on a proposal to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County. While noting economic benefits, the studies also raised safety questions. Virginia Beach officials worry a catastrophic storm hitting a uranium mine could result in the contamination of Lake Gaston, the city's water supply located downstream from the deposit. Officials are against the General Assembly lifting the existing moratorium on the mining. Tuesday's resolution amplified the stance against uranium mining the City Council took in 2008. (Virginia Pilot June 13, 2012)
Virginia Governor orders preparation of regulatory framework for uranium mining:
In his January 19, 2012 Directive, Governor McDonnell established the group "to provide a scientific policy analysis to help the General Assembly assess whether the moratorium on uranium mining in the Commonwealth should be lifted, and if so, how best to do so". At least, this is what he says in the preambule. When it comes to the tasks to be accomplished by the working group, however, there oddly is no longer any mention of an "if", but a straight order to work out a regulatory framework for uranium mining.
> Download Directive re Establishment of Uranium Working Group, Jan. 19, 2012 (454k PDF)
> Uranium Working Group (Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy)
The Virginia Coalition†formed to keep the uranium moratorium in Virginia:
A group of†citizens from several different businesses and professions joined forces Tuesday (Dec. 27) to form The Virginia Coalition †with the primary goal of keeping the uranium moratorium in Virginia from coming to a vote in the General Assembly.
Virginia Uranium Inc. has proposed a major mining operation at Coles Hill, near Chatham.† In order to proceed, Virginia Uranium seeks to overturn a 30-year state moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. The long awaited studies and reports on potential uranium mining in Virginia are complete, and they do not indicate that uranium mining can be done in Virginia without†serious health risks.
According to Virginia Coalition spokesperson Andrew Lester "When our citizens and legislators read the reports, they will come away with the same conclusions as our coalition members.† Uranium mining poses a dangerous threat to the health, safety and welfare of our people." (The Gazette-Virginian Dec. 28, 2011)
Coalition launches petition for keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia: The Keep the Ban Coalition announced May 12 the launch of a statewide petition drive for citizens, civic groups, local governments, and others to show their support for keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia. The coalition has already gathered 1,000 signatures, and the support of 41 groups and localities that want the General Assembly to keep the ban. (Keep the Ban, May 12, 2011)
Organization forms to push to keep ban on uranium mining in Virginia: A group of Pittsylvania County residents has formed a grassroots organization to oppose lifting the ban on uranium mining and milling in the commonwealth. The citizens established Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment , a nonprofit, to be an environmental watchdog, monitor issues and hold government officials accountable for their actions, said PRIDE President Karen Maute. "PRIDE will actively promote keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia and seek to empower the communities to bring awareness of other issues that have negative impact on citizen health, the environment and the economy," the group stated in a news release. PRIDE so far has about a dozen members and is a chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League based in Glendale Springs, N.C. (Danville Register & Bee Mar. 28, 2011)
Virginia Uranium Inc. pushes for lifting of uranium mining moratorium in Virginia for 2012: Virginia Uranium Inc. will push for legislation in the next General Assembly session, in 2012, to legalize uranium mining again, the Associated Press reports. Walter Coles Jr., executive vice president, told investors that the state is "fairly pro-nuclear," and that sponsors are already on board. (The News & Record Mar. 7, 2011)
Concern about possibility of ending uranium mining moratorium in Virginia:
The renewed prospect of uranium mining in Virginia's Piedmont has been raised by a state energy plan being developed by the Kaine administration under a General Assembly mandate.
Uranium mining has been barred in Virginia by a 25-year-old moratorium. A proposal to mine a large uranium deposit near Chatham in Pittsylvania County in the early 1980s generated controversy and led to the moratorium. Opponents were concerned that radioactive milling waste, a result of processing, would pollute the environment.
The possibility of lifting that ban has alarmed folks at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) in Charlottesville. (Richmond Times-Dispatch Aug. 31, 2007)
> Download Virginia Energy Plan 2007 (Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy)
> View Uranium Mining in Virginia (SELC)
Report raises questions on ability of Virginia Uranium Inc. and its regulator to follow best practices†in development of Coles Hill uranium mine project:
Today, the Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA) announces the release of the completed "Review of Records of Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy Uranium Exploration Permit 90484EX Issued to Virginia Uranium, Inc."† This report was performed by Paul Robinson, Research Director, Southwest Research and Information Center , Albuquerque, NM, at the request of RRBA.
According to Gene Addesso, RRBA President, the study raises troubling questions regarding the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) and its ability to develop, promulgate, and satisfactorily enforce regulations regarding uranium mining in Virginia.
"Uranium mining proponents claim that DMME is capable of protecting the water resources related to mining operations.† However, this report tells us that DMME had the opportunity to protect the public interest during exploratory drilling at Coles Hill, and they failed to provide effective oversight.† This leads us to question how DMME could be expected to take on the regulatory responsibility of large scale uranium mining on thousands of acres in the headwaters of the Banister River," Addesso stated.
"Further, Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) keeps telling us about best practices and VUIís desire to be an environmental steward in their mining operations.† But the evidence contained in this report, indicates that VUI has been less than satisfactory in their test drilling procedures". (RRBA July 22, 2013)
> Download: Review of Records of Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy Uranium Exploration Permit 90484EX Issued to Virginia Uranium, Inc. , by Paul Robinson, July 2013 (651k PDF)
Energy Fuels Inc. acquires 16.5% interest in owner of Coles Hill uranium deposit: On Jan. 28, 2013, Energy Fuels Inc. announced that the company has completed its acquisition of a 16.5% interest in Virginia Energy Resources Inc.
Landscape threatened by Coles Hill uranium mine project listed on Virginia Preservation group's 2012 Endangered Historic Sites List: The Whitethorn Creek Banister River area, which could be impacted by a proposed uranium mining operation, has made Preservation Virginia's 2012 Most Endangered Historic Sites list for 2012. The listing says the area is a picturesque rural landscape which played an essential role in the mid-18th century founding of Pittsylvania County during which plantation based agriculture and local water-powered processing were the principal economic activities. The nomination indicates the area has standing structures that span almost every era of the region including a Native American fish weir, two gristmills built in the 1700s, mansions from the Revolutionary War era, and the home of J.E.B. Stuart's grandparents. These are surrounded by pristine fields, woods, creeks and rivers says the nomination which was submitted by Ann Rogers of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League . The threat to the region is the potential construction and operation of a uranium mine and mill proposed at Coles Hill. (Chatham Star Tribune May 10, 2012)
City of Virginia Beach releases summary of second uranium report on environmental impacts from proposed uranium mining in Chatham:
Continued study shows a worst-case release of radioactive uranium mill waste could have the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk looking for another water supply for up to a year and a half.
Yet, the city could prevent contamination of its drinking water by not pumping water from Lake Gaston.
The report on the second phase of the Virginia Beach study of potential impacts of uranium mining on the city's drinking water should be released within a couple weeks, said Tom Leahy, the city's director of public utilities. The city posted the summary and explanatory videos regarding the more specific study findings on its website Tuesday (Jan. 17).
The second study modeled (over two years) the release of about one-third of the uranium tailings (radioactive uranium mill waste) from an above-grade containment cell to the Banister River. From there, dissolved radioactive contaminants were simulated to travel downstream to Kerr Reservoir and then Lake Gaston, which supplies Virginia Beach's drinking water. A future report will address sedimentary contamination.
The study examined both wet and dry years and both low and high solubility (dissolvability) of contaminants. During dry years, total radioactivity concentration can remain above safe levels in Lake Gaston for about one year, and radium concentrations can remain above maximum contaminant levels under the Safe Water Drinking Act for about 1.5 years, the summary stated. During wet years, contaminants in the main channels of Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston could exceed maximum regulatory levels for up to 90 days.
Because the city pumps water from Lake Gaston through an intake upstream on Pea Hill Creek, it could prevent contamination as long as it didn't pump water from the lake, according to the report summary. Yet, that could mean “severe water shortages” for the Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk. (WSLS Jan. 18, 2012)
> View Virginia Beach Uranium Mining Impact Study (Virginia Beach)
> Download Executive Summary of Phase II Assessment, Jan. 2012 (683k PDF - Virginia Beach)
Fairfax Water Authority releases study on impacts of uranium mining in Virginia on watersheds, calling for a "conservative and precautionary approach" to mining:
Fairfax County Water Authority's board of directors has released a study it commissioned on the impact that uranium mining could have on its watersheds.
The study, prepared by two Fairfax firms, Tetra Tech, Inc. and Hazen and Sawyer, comes on the heels of a 22-month review by the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.
The upshot of the Fairfax study:
Further study assesses socioeconomic impact of uranium mining in Virginia:
Uranium mining and milling in Southside Virginia would bring significant economic benefits to the region, but the increased prosperity could come with the potential of environmental risk, an independent study concluded Thursday (Dec. 15).
The study was commissioned by the Danville Regional Foundation and conducted by RTI International of Research Triangle Park, N.C. The purpose of the study was to assess the potential socioeconomic impacts of mining and milling within a 50-mile radius of the Pittsylvania County mine. The study area includes several counties in neighboring North Carolina. (The Washington Post Dec. 15, 2011)
> Download RTI Uranium Study (Danville Regional Foundation)
Study assesses scenarios on socioeconomic impact of uranium mining in Virginia:
A state-commissioned study of uranium mining in Southside Virginia is offering some starkly divergent scenarios on mining and milling the radioactive ore.
Under a best-case scenario, the study released Wednesday (Nov. 30) concludes the region could reap substantial economic benefits from the mining of a 119-million-pound deposit in Pittsylvania County.
But a worst-case scenario warns of severe environmental impacts to air, water and soil.
The 179-page Chmura Economics & Analytics report focuses on a baseline scenario that envisions "moderate" environmental impacts, all within limits set by existing federal standards. The report concludes the benefits for Pittsylvania County and Virginia would be "substantial and positive." (AP Nov. 30, 2011)
> Download: The Socioeconomic Impact of Uranium Mining and Milling in the Chatham Labor Shed, Virginia , Prepared for Virginia Coal and Energy Commission, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Nov. 29, 2011 (2.8 MB PDF)
Report finds degradation of water quality and increased water competition for proposed Coles Hill uranium mine:
On Nov. 17, 2011, the Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA) released a site-specific report finding that the proposed uranium mining and milling project at Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County, VA would cause long-term, chronic degradation of water quality and increase water competition in the region. The report was prepared by Dr. Robert Moran, who has more than thirty-nine years of domestic and international experience in conducting and managing water quality, geochemical and hydrogeologic work for private investors, industrial clients, tribal and citizens groups, NGO's, law firms, and governmental agencies at all levels. In the early 1980s, Dr. Moran was on the team conducting environmental studies on water quality and hydrogeology for Marline Uranium and Union Carbide.
The report finds that the project as proposed may generate at least 28 million tons of solid uranium mill tailings and roughly the same amount of liquid waste. The solid wastes would remain on site forever, requiring maintenance forever. Uranium mill tailings would contain radionuclides, heavy metals and other toxic elements. Undiluted tailings liquids may contain 1160 to 1460 times the existing Safe Drinking Water Act standard for uranium.
The report also finds a potentially significant impact on the water availability in the region. According to the report findings, as proposed, the Coles Hill project would require over 5 billion gallons of water. During the start-up period, the project would use at least 525.6 million gallons per year. The company's documents have failed to identify the sources of this water.
The report also finds a potentially significant impact on groundwater. "Seepage of acidic water and other chemicals should be the main concern," warns Dr. Moran. The report also cautions that the confirmed presence of sulfides in the Coles Hill rock raises the possibility that long-term, active water treatment may be required, in perpetuity.
"Most U.S. uranium mining sites that I visited are located in desert or semi-desert, sparsely-populated regions. The Coles Hill site is wet, with annual precipitation equal to about 42 inches. Most importantly, within a radius of 2 to 3 miles, Coles Hill has roughly 250 private wells, at least one dairy and numerous hay / forage fields, which are liable to be impacted," said Dr. Moran.
"The main takeaway from this report for the communities is that all such large-scale uranium projects involve trade-offs, usually some short-term jobs, etc. in exchange for long-term impacts (environmental, socioeconomic, etc.), most of which are paid by future generations. Thus, many of the long-term costs will be subsidized by the public," said Dr. Moran.
> View Roanoke River Basin Association release Nov. 17, 2011
> Download Site-specific assessment of the proposed uranium mining and milling project at Coles Hill, Pittsylvania County, VA , by Robert E. Moran, Nov. 2011 (340k PDF)
Proposed Coles Hill uranium mine site prone to flooding, group says:
A piece of Pittsylvania County land that may one day be a uranium mine is the site of "frequent and pervasive flooding," according to a study by an environmental group.
Floodwaters may carry the risk of radioactive contamination from uranium mining waste, called tailings, that would be stored underground at the mine site, said a report released Monday (Sep. 26) by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
Since Virginia Uranium Inc. proposed tapping a huge uranium deposit beneath the Coles Hill farm in Pittsylvania County, cities and counties as far downstream as Virginia Beach have raised concerns that runoff could pollute their drinking water. Mining on a flood-prone site -- the report lists four floods of historic proportions since 1996 - could heighten the risk, opponents say. "The evidence of pervasive flooding throughout the Coles Hill site suggests there would be chronic and catastrophic failure of mill tailings containments, no matter where the containments may be sited," the Environmental Defense League's report said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has designated three flood hazard zones on the 3,500-acre property. But according to Walter Coles, owner of the land and chief executive officer of Virginia Uranium, all mining activities will be conducted on higher ground, away from those areas. (The Roanoke Times Sep. 27, 2011)
> View Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League release Sep. 26, 2011 and download report
Proposed uranium mining puts Roanoke River on endangered list: American Rivers announced today that proposed uranium mining landed the Roanoke (Staunton) River on its annual list of "America's Most Endangered Rivers." The report is not a list of the most polluted rivers, but is a "call to action for rivers at a crossroads, whose fates will be determined in the coming year." The possibility that the General Assembly could lift Virginia's moratorium on uranium mining helped the Roanoke River grab a spot in the top 10 endangered rivers nationwide, said Peter Raabe of American Rivers, a national water conservation organization. American Rivers is calling on the Virginia legislature to uphold the statewide ban to protect the region's rivers and communities that rely on the Roanoke River Basin for drinking water, according to a news release. (WSLS May 17, 2011)
North Carolina legislators want impact study on possible uranium mining in Virginia: North Carolina legislators would like an impact study in case Virginia legislators overturn a decades-long moratorium on uranium mining. Sens. Doug Berger and Ed Jones co-sponsored a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly introduced at the end of March asking for the Legislative Research Commission to study the short- and long-term impacts of uranium mining in Virginia on North Carolina's economy, environment, agriculture and health and well-being of residents. The water quality division in the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimated a study could cost $100,000, Berger said. Funding hasn't been appropriated yet. (Danville Register & Bee May 16, 2011)
Positive Preliminary Economic Assessment announced for Coles Hill uranium mine project:
On Oct. 18, 2010, Virginia Energy Resources Inc. announced the results of the 43-101 compliant Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) undertaken by Virginia Uranium Inc. on its Coles Hill Uranium Project. "The results clearly demonstrate the technical and economic viability of the project."
> Calculate Mine Feasibility
Proposals sought for socioeconomic study on the impacts of uranium mining at Coles Hill:
The Uranium Mining Subcommittee of the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission is asking for proposals from interested firms or organizations to conduct a socioeconomic study on the impacts of uranium mining for the region surrounding Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County, announced subcommittee Chair Delegate R. Lee Ware Jr. in a news release Thursday (Sep. 30).
A grant not to exceed $200,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Commission is paying for the socioeconomic study, which should be completed by Dec. 1, 2011, according to the request for proposals. The deadline for submitting proposals is 5 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2010.
(Danville Register & Bee Sep. 30, 2010)
> Download Request for Proposals (Coal and Energy Commission)
Pittsylvania County wants mining banned in industrial mega park: The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors wants to forbid mining and milling in the Berry Hill Road industrial mega park site. The board unanimously voted Monday night (June 7) to pass a resolution recommending that the Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority board consider enacting covenants for the mega park that would include prohibition of mining and milling of any kind. (Danville Register & Bee June 9, 2010)
Tobacco Commission OKs funds for uranium study: The Virginia Tobacco Commission approved up to $200,000 for a socioeconomic study of uranium mining and milling during its meeting Thursday (Apr. 29) at the Hotel Roanoke. The commission followed that up with a vote to require Danville and Pittsylvania County to pay back $13.1 million in commission funding for the Berry Hill Road mega park - if uranium is ever mined there. (Danville Register & Bee April 29, 2010)
Scoping study underway for Coles Hill uranium mine project: On March 5, 2010, Virginia Uranium Inc. announced that an updated scoping study on the Coles Hill uranium project is now underway. The study will provide a current analysis of the fundamental project economics. The results are anticipated within the first half of 2010.
Uranium Mining Symposium , Richmond, VA, March 11, 2010: Sponsoring Organizations: Dan River Basin Association; Friends of the Earth, Piedmont Environmental Council; Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter; Southern Environmental Law Center; Virginia Conservation Network, and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light
City of Virginia Beach conducts study of its own on possible impacts from proposed uranium mining in Chatham:
A $437,000 study being conducted by the city of Virginia Beach , Va. will examine what might happen to the water quality in Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake if a proposed uranium mine in Chatham, Va. were struck by a Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) storm.
Virginia Beach Director of Public Works Thomas Leahy said the study being conducted by Virginia Beach is designed to supplement the work of the National Academy of Science by looking at what would happen if a major storm flooded the proposed uranium mining site and washed radioactive materials downstream.
(The Warren Record Jan. 20, 2010)
The study found that a large reservoir upstream of Lake Gaston would trap as much as 90 percent of radioactive waste. The remaining contaminants could make their way into Lake Gaston, forcing officials to cut off water from there up to two years. (The Virginian-Pilot Feb. 2, 2011)
> Download study: A Preliminary Assessment of Potential Impacts of Uranium Mining in Virginia on Drinking Water Sources, Final Report, February 2011 (City of Virginia Beach)
Company disputes study on hazards from planned uranium mill tailings dam during a natural disaster - three hours after rare 5.8-magnitude earthquake...:
Virginia Uranium Inc. representatives could have picked a better day to refute a Virginia Beach study on the potential dangers of a mining operation in south-central Virginia during a natural disaster.
But there they were in front of City Council three hours after a rare earthquake and with Beach officials preparing for a possible hurricane this weekend.
Alan Kuhn, a consultant for Virginia Uranium, which wants the state to lift its ban on uranium mining so the company can extract the deposits in Pittsylvania County, called the Beach's study flawed and "based on unrealistic assumptions." The Beach study, conducted by an engineering firm for $437,000, found that in the worst case of massive flooding at the mining operation, the city's water supply in Lake Gaston could be temporarily contaminated. The chance of that kind of flooding happening is 1 in 10 million, Kuhn said.
Council members, however, pointed out that although earthquakes are unusual in Virginia, the state had just experienced a 5.8-magnitude temblor earlier in the day. The Gulf oil spill and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have shown that with some events, you "can't always predict it based on a history," Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said.
Walter Coles Sr., the chairman of Virginia Uranium, said the earthquake did not hurt the company's message. "We just had a highly unusual seismic event," Coles said in an email. "An event that would be anticipated and adequately controlled by the engineering designs of modern tailings containment cells." He said Virginia Uranium will continue rebutting the Beach's findings. (Virginia Pilot Aug. 24. 2011)
Danville Regional Foundation pursues independent regional analysis of the socioeconomic impacts of uranium mining and milling:
While the state anticipates approval of a statewide uranium-mining study conducted by the National Research Council, the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) is pursuing its own separate, regional analysis of the socioeconomic impacts of uranium mining and milling.
The foundation announced Thursday (Oct 1) its request for qualifications seeking proposals from interested firms, nonprofits and academic programs.
"DRF is considering sponsoring an independent and rigorous socioeconomic examination of the effects the proposed mine, mill, and long-term waste management upon the people and institutions, including the economy, limited to the region served by DRF," foundation President and CEO Karl Stauber said in a statement Thursday.
(Danville Register & Bee October 1, 2009)
DRF is requesting letters of interest, with qualifications by December 1, 2009.
> Download Request for Qualifications - Regional Socioeconomic Study of Impact of Uranium Mining and Milling , Oct. 1, 2009 (PDF - Danville Regional Foundation)
On July 23, 2009, Santoy Resources Limited announced the completion of its business combination with privately held Virginia Uranium Ltd. Post-closing, the company has changed its name to Virginia Energy Resources Inc.
Company says test drilling not cause of well contamination: In a statement released on March 24, 2009, Virginia Uranium Inc. said it is not responsible for high lead levels in some wells near the Coles Hill uranium deposit. Concerns about well testing around the uranium deposit, about six miles northeast of Chatham, were raised at a meeting two weeks ago sponsored by the Pittsylvania County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Deborah Lovelace of Gretna repeated her concerns at last week's Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors meeting, showing board members jugs of water, including one from a well with high levels of lead. "This well was fine before the drilling started," she said. "I wonder how many other people are in that same situation?" (Star-Tribune March 25, 2009)
The City Council of Virginia Beach took a stand against uranium mining Tuesday (Dec. 2, 2008) night, adopting a resolution opposing a mine proposed for south central Virginia. City officials fear uranium mining in Pittsylvania County - about 200 miles away - could contaminate Lake Gaston, the city's water source. (The Virginian-Pilot, December 3, 2008)
Virginia Beach City officials are gearing up to oppose a uranium mine about 200 miles west in Pittsylvania County, arguing it could threaten the city's water supply. The City Council was told Tuesday (Nov. 25, 2008) that under a worst-case scenario, a hurricane or tropical storm could destroy the landfill-like containers that would hold radioactive mining waste. Thomas Leahy, director of public utilities, said that also would contaminate downstream waterways, including Lake Gaston, the city's water source, which lies about halfway between Pittsylvania County and Virginia Beach. (The Virginian-Pilot, November 26, 2008)
On Feb. 7, 2008, Halifax Town Council unanimously approved a Corporate Mining and Chemical and Radioactive Bodily Trespass ordinance. A proposed uranium mining and milling operation near Chatham triggered council's adoption of the ordinance. Through the ordinance, corporations and governing officials permitting those corporations will be held liable to the people of Halifax for chemical trespass. (The Gazette-Virginian Feb. 8, 2008)
On Dec. 18, 2007, exploration drilling on the Coles Hill deposit has started, in spite of the moratorium against uranium mining in Virginia still being in place. (Danville Register & Bee Dec. 19, 2007)
On Nov. 27, 2007, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) issued an exploration permit to Virginia Uranium Inc.
> View related documents (DMME)
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