- Last Updated on 08:07 AM 12/18/13
- BY Paula I. Bryant
“A brief sabbatical.”
That’s how former Virginia Coalition Chairman John Cannon described Virginia Uranium’s decision to suspend its efforts to overturn the state’s ban on uranium mining.
And opponents of uranium mining are gladly embracing this early Christmas present with open arms.
The Chatham-based uranium company feverishly 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.
Now the announcement that they plan to retreat from this fight… well, it seems almost too good to be true.
A moratorium on uranium mining has been in place since 1982.
I well remember when it all got started back in the early 1980s as I, fresh out of college, had just moved to Chatham to work for the Chatham Star-Tribune.
Finding myself right in the midst of “the uranium gang,” I met many of the original players who worked for Marline Uranium, Virginia Uranium’s predecessor company.
Like Virginia Uranium, Marline had as its ultimate goal getting the valuable ore out of the ground.
However, after raising the issue, Marline lost interest in mining the deposit when the price of uranium dropped significantly over the course of the 1980s.
High-grade ore bodies in Saskatchewan, Canada, were being developed more cheaply than deposits had ever been developed, driving down the price of uranium at that time.
And the incident at Chernobyl also spawned global fears about nuclear energy, further driving down the prices.
Now some three decades later, opponents are once again breathing a sigh of relief, albeit temporarily.
We the People Chairman Jack Dunavant rejoiced at the news, although he admitted he is surprised at Virginia Uranium’s decision to retreat in the face of the political reality that Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe plans to veto any pro-uranium mining legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session.
“I think this thing is going to fall apart at the seams now,” he said over the weekend.
Other uranium opponents, however, are not as optimistic, warning 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,” said Cannon. “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.”
Recount underway this week
The recount of 2.2 million ballots in the state attorney general’s race got underway Monday following an election separated by only 165 votes.
At stake is Democratic Mark Herring’s narrow victory over Republican Mark Obenshain.
This is the closest statewide race in Virginia history. Even the Washington Post editorial board has agreed the state should be taking a close look at the results and going through the recount process, saying the “voters no less than the candidates themselves deserve to know that every properly cast vote was accurately counted.”
You can rest assured both candidates carefully will be reviewing the poll books during the recount, as authorized by Virginia law.
They each will be looking to give voters additional assurance in the accuracy of the result or be able to identify potential problems and find out what actually happened.
Either way, the access to the poll books should increase the transparency of the election, which is a good thing for our democratic process.
No one knows how the recount will turn out.
The last three statewide recounts in the U.S. that started with a margin of 300 votes or fewer all saw a change in the ultimate result.
We will just have to be patient for the end result.