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Governor’s mining group to meet; opponents urge attendance

The Uranium Mining Work Group, a state panel appointed to study regulations and safeguards necessary before a 1982 ban on uranium mining can be lifted, will meet Monday at 6 p.m. at Chatham High School, 100 Cavalier Circle in Chatham.

Keep the Ban advocates are urging uranium opponents to pack the meeting to let the governor know many Halifax County citizens are opposed to lifting the ban.

The National Academy of Sciences’ report on uranium mining confirms that Virginia’s wet climates and vulnerability to extreme natural events presents steep challenges to uranium mining, Keep the Ban officials said. 

Halifax Town Councilman Jack Dunavant, who has heads one of several area anti-uranium groups “We the People,” said this week the public is invited to attend and tell Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Uranium Mining Work Group to keep the ban.

“This meeting is the meeting of the commission appointed by the governor to further study uranium mining. The commission is not approved by the general assembly, It’s not part of the general assembly. These people work for the governor. They are part of his administration, and he did it as a sock to the big money guys in Richmond, no other reason,” Dunavant said of the members serving on the Uranium Mining Work Group. 

“This thing has been studied and studied and restudied. I think there’s six or eight studies out there, and all of them come back with handfuls of reasons why you don’t want to go in the uranium mining business in the state of Virginia,” he added.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. wants to mine a uranium deposit on Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County, one that would yield an estimated 119 millions pounds of “yellowcake.”

The deposit has been described as the nation’s richest source of untapped uranium oxide.

The current moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia has ignited a debate that reaches beyond the pastoral setting of Coles Hill, putting at odds the prospects for economic development and the protection of future generations from radioactive waste should a man-made or natural disaster occur at Coles Hill if mining were allowed to take place, according to Keep the Ban members.  

“Virginia Beach had 200 people show up, and they gave them a really hard time for one of the studies,” Dunavant said of a similar meeting the Uranium Working Group held in Virginia Beach. 

“We need to give these people a real hard time because they are kicking a dead cow here, and this thing has got to go away. We need to show up and let those people know exactly how we feel, and I hope that we can at least get as many people as Virginia Beach had, but this affects us much more than it affects Virginia Beach. We’re at ground zero,” said Dunavant.

 “We need people to show up and express their concerns and indignations so that we can have good representation,” he added. “If people need assistance getting there, I will offer my phone number. Give me a call if necessary. I will even get a bus to carry people.”

Dunvant can be contacted at home at 476-6648 and at work at 476-7372.