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Uranium measure yanked in Senate

A bill to effectively lift the ban on uranium mining was pulled from the docket just before it was to be voted on Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, according to a spokesperson in Del. James Edmunds’ office.

Sen. John Watkins’ Bill 1353 would have introduced legislation to establish regulatory and licensing requirements for Virginia Uranium Inc., the Chatham-based company that hopes to mine the Coles Hill deposit in Pittsylvania County. 

The bill is aimed at lifting the 30-year moratorium on uranium mining and is specific to the Coles Hill site.

A majority of the 15-member panel had voiced opposition to lifting the ban prior to the bill’s removal from the docket Thursday.

Committee members had been scheduled to discuss the bill after the Senate adjourned Thursday.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Emmett Hanger (R- Mt. Solon) and includes Republicans Frank Ruff (Clarksville), Harry Blevins (Chesapeake), Mark Obenshain (Harrisonburg), Richard Stuart (Montross), Bill Stanley (Franklin), Richard Black (Leesburg) and Watkins. Democratic members are Phillip Puckett (Tazewell), Donald McEachin (Richmond), J. Chapman Petersen (Fairfax), Ralph Northam (Painter), David Marsden (Burke), John Miller (Newport News) and Adam Ebbin (Alexandria).

A companion bill in the House of Delegates has been assigned to that chamber’s commerce committee. Manassas representative Jackson Miller sponsored the House legislation, acting on behalf of Virginia Uranium Inc.

Virginia Uranium Inc.  is eager to mine the Pittsylvania ore deposit, estimated to have a market value of $7 billion.

However, legislators must lift the 30-year ban, so it can get started on the process to mine the deposit of ore located on Coles Hill.

The Coles Hill uranium deposit is one of the world’s most significant undeveloped deposits of uranium ore. The mine is projected to produce up to 120 million pounds of yellow cake over its economic life. When fully operational, the mine is expected to produce 2 million pounds of yellow cake per year.

If Miller’s bill makes it through the House of Delegates, it would then go over to the Senate for a vote.

Virginia has had a moratorium on uranium mining since 1982.