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New group forms to support lifting mining moratorium

For several months, local supporters of developing the uranium resource at Coles Hill have been collecting names and signatures of their fellow community leaders who share their view that uranium mining will be a positive addition to the local economy. 

The group is calling itself People for Economic Prosperity and was created to emphasize that a large part of the business community is in favor of uranium mining, and no group should claim to speak for the entire business community, according to a statement released to the press Friday by Julie Rautio. 

“The group has over 1,200 members and is growing each day. Members include 240 local small business owners, 150 farmers and over 800 area citizens.  Leadership of the group is comprised of 47 directors and steering council members who will coordinate the group’s plans to actively advocate for the General Assembly to establish a regulatory program for the industry, thereby lifting the moratorium that was left in place in the 1980s after Marline/Union Carbide company dropped plans to develop the deposit at Coles Hill,” the release stated.

 “We are united in our belief that the deposit can and will be mined safely and that Pittsylvania County will benefit immensely from the direct and indirect economic benefits including jobs and capital investment,” said Dallas Riddle of Gretna, a prominent local entrepreneur, founder and chairman of RACO and a buffalo farmer. “But just as importantly, the revenue it will generate for our schools and other important community priorities is unmatched by any other opportunity the region has seen in my lifetime.”

Other groups have taken a position against uranium mining, but People for Economic Prosperity believes that the reasons behind that opposition are unsupported by the experiences of modern mines and the strong record of safety in the nuclear industry, the release further states.

 “The nuclear industry has a culture of safety that is second to none,” said Dick Camp of Chatham, a retired mechanical engineer with extensive experience in the nuclear industry. “I believe that culture, combined with the local ownership and management of the project and a strong regulatory program in Virginia will yield the same impressive results as Canada has experienced in hard rock uranium mining.”

The People for Economic Prosperity intends to continue building their ranks and plans to advocate for strong regulations that will ensure the protection of workers, the community and the environment during the 2013 legislative session, according to the release.

“We believe that uranium mining can be the catalyst for a vibrant economy locally, and a significant contribution to our nation’s energy independence,” said George Winn, a prominent cattleman and director of the Pittsylvania County Farm Bureau. “We also believe that uranium mining is compatible with other types of economic activity including agriculture, and that all the socioeconomic studies to date demonstrate that to be true.” 

The group will launch a website next week www.PEPSouthside.org  where supporters can go to join and contact the group. 

All 1,200 plus members of People for Economic Prosperity signed the following statement: 

“Knowing that mining uranium here in Virginia will be regulated, controlled and safe, we want to see the Coles Hill uranium project move forward as expeditiously as possible. Our state and the Southside region desperately need the thousands of jobs and millions in new tax revenue that will be generated by this multi-billion-dollar enterprise. And our nation needs the energy.”