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Tobacco Commission Gets Process Rolling For Socioeconomic Uranium Mining Study

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is reprinted with permission of the Register & Bee.)
The process has begun for the second part of a study focusing on the socioeconomic impacts of uranium mining and milling in Virginia. The Virginia Tobacco Commission’s executive committee voted Thursday during its meeting in Roanoke to recommend the commission supply up to $200,000 to the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission’s Uranium Mining Subcommittee to pay an entity to perform the socioeconomic study.

“We want to make sure that there was independent funding so this would have validity,” Tobacco Commission Executive Committee Chairman Delegate Terry Kilgore said Thursday.

The Tobacco Commission will meet April 29, said Kilgore, R-1st District, who also heads the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission.

Thursday’s vote was not unanimous. State Sen. Frank Ruff, R-15th District, voted against the idea.

The committee’s vote came with the stipulation that the Tobacco Commission review other similar socioeconomic studies, including one by the Danville Regional Foundation, to prevent duplication of the other analyses and to fill their research gaps, said Delegate Danny Marshall, R-Danville, a committee member who voted for the move.

“We want to make sure we don’t have five studies doing the same thing,” Marshall said Thursday.

Virginia Uranium Inc., which seeks to mine and mill a 119-million pound uranium ore deposit at Coles Hill near Chatham, is paying for the study’s first part emphasizing the technical and scientific aspects of mining and milling. The National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council are performing that study, which is expected to be finished in the fall of 2011.

Virginia currently has a moratorium on uranium mining and milling.

Patrick Wales, VUI geologist and spokesman, praised the vote as the first step toward completing the mission that the Coal and Energy Commission assigned to the uranium subcommittee.  

Eloise Nenon, a mining opponent and founding member of Southside Concerned Citizens in Chatham, said the decision was “great” but added public participation in the study should be allowed. The study should also examine the threats uranium mining and milling could pose to the area’s history, agriculture, air, water and public health, Nenon said.