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Virginia Uranium puts mining campaign on hold

Opponents of uranium mining received an early Christmas present Saturday when Virginia Uranium Inc. announced it will temporarily abandon its efforts to end the moratorium on uranium mining and will not back legislation to that end in the upcoming legislative session of the General Assembly.

The company cited Gov.-Elect Terry McAuliffe’s expressed opposition to uranium mining as the reason for suspending its campaign.

The Chatham-based uranium company has been lobbying to mine a 119-million pound deposit of uranium ore at Coles Hill in Pittsylvania County since 2007 when mining plans were resurrected.

A moratorium on uranium mining has been in place since 1982.

In a low-key statement issued to the Associated Press Saturday, Virginia Uranium Project Manager Patrick Wales said, “We are committed to developing the Coles Hill project. We will continue evaluating all options to move the project forward.”

The change of heart follows on the heels of McAuliffe’s position that he will not support lifting the state’s three-decade long ban on uranium mining.

McAuliffe said after his election in November he intends to veto any pro-uranium legislation in the upcoming 2014 General Assembly session.

Upon hearing Virginia Uranium’s announcement Saturday, We The People of Virginia Inc. Chairman Jack Dunavant said he is “a happy man.”

“It’s long overdue. Now we’ve just got to keep the pressure on and after the next four years elect someone equally as good to replace McAuliffe,” he added.

Dunavant admitted he was somewhat surprised by Virginia Uranium’s announcement Saturday.

Virginia Uranium has made political contributions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying efforts since the company revived plans to mine the ore at Coles Hill.

“I think this thing is going to fall apart at the seams now,” Dunavant said.

John Cannon, who previously served as chairman of The Virginia Coalition, warned anti-uranium supporters not to let their guard down now.

“In 1982 we went through this, and we beat them. But they took years to come back, and they are still going to continue to fight for this because it is a valuable resource for them.

“We have got to continue to keep our guard up and to keep our efforts in Richmond alive and on the scene making sure it doesn’t raise its ugly head again.”

Cannon expressed appreciation to governing bodies and local businesses for their support in the fight to keep the ban on uranium mining, but he added, “This is not over. We have just gotten a brief sabbatical.”

For the past six years, uranium mining opponents across the state have argued Virginia’s climate and oftentimes harsh weather would make the mining at the Pittsylvania County site an environmental nightmare - threatening contamination of groundwater supplies and neighboring farmland.

 

Proponents of uranium mining on the other hand have spent the past six years working to gain the confidence of the local community declaring mining can be conducted safely to protect human health and the environment.