State lawmakers are poised to consider ending the 30-year moratorium on uranium mining, as Virginia Uranium Inc. intends to mine one of the nation's largest known uranium deposits in Pittsylvania County. Seventeen black ministers signed a resolution requesting a permanent ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
AAEA supports the uranium mining proposal.
The ministers' announcement comes less than a week before the General Assembly begins debate about whether or not to lift the ban. A multi-agency working group created by Gov. Bob McDonnell recently outlined a regulatory framework should uranium mining and milling be allowed. State Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said he will introduce legislation during the upcoming session to lift the uranium mining ban.
Virginia Uranium officials say that modern uranium mining and milling can be done safely and that lifting the ban will create jobs in economically strapped Southside. However, the ministers who spoke Friday said those jobs will come at a cost to the region's health and that lifting the ban will actually hurt the local economy.
The ministers referred to a 2011 National Academy of Sciences study that found Virginia faced "steep hurdles" before it could safely allow mining. The ministers said mining at the Coles Hill site could adversely affect groundwater, agriculture and economic development. They said "there is a cumulative risk to minority communities [from] uranium mining. Minorities rely on local food sources that could be exposed to "pathways of uranium" and that "unskilled workers tend to be offered the more dangerous jobs." They also cited a 2011 report by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information that found blacks might be more likely than whites to develop cancer as a result of consuming groundwater that contains high levels of uranium. Finally, they added that regulating the uranium industry will cost millions of dollars and will divert state funding for programs that might benefit minorities.
The ministers drafted their resolution with assistance from Ann Rogers, a Roanoke County-based organizer with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League; former Roanoke councilman and environmental activist Rupert Cutler; and one-time House of Delegates candidate and Roanoke activist Freeda Cathcart. (The Roanoke Times, 1/7/2012)