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Mining buried

South Boston News
Mining foes Chad Martin (right), a Martinsville resident, and Anderson Jones of Pittsylvania mill around outside a Senate hearing room where the agriculture and natural resources committee met. Sen. John Watkins asked that his bill to allow uranium mining be struck.
SoVaNow.com / February 04, 2013
RICHMOND — Legislation to regulate uranium mining and milling in Virginia died in a Senate committee Thursday afternoon without a vote.

The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee heard from the bill’s sponsor, Powhatan Republican John Watkins, who asked that it be struck from the committee docket. Watkins’ Senate Bill 1353 would have established a regulatory framework for mining uranium at the Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania County, effectively ending Virginia’s 31-year mining ban.

Foes of uranium mining, including Clarksville state Sen. Frank Ruff, hailed the apparent end of efforts in the legislature this year to lift the ban. Six Southside legislators declared the mining issue dead for this session in a joint letter issued after the vote.

“The stigma of the possibility of mining uranium in southern Virginia has caused lots of concern, lots of fears,” said Ruff during the agriculture committee vote.

Referring to the years-long timeframe for actually digging up Coles Hill’s estimated 119-million pound deposit, Ruff said the uranium mining industry might create some jobs for the region in the undetermined future, “but in that time we’ll lose 10 times that [number] of jobs” from the uncertainty that mining has created.

He called uranium mining “a cloud hanging over the region” that will crimp economic development as long as the matter remains unsettled.

State Sen. Donald McEachin, a Richmond Democrat, said uranium opponents “ought to know their voices have been heard.

“At least in this senator’s judgment ... deep into this century there won’t be any uranium mining in Virginia,” said McEachin.

The Senate committee acted without holding a public hearing, although dozens of uranium opponents had come to Richmond to speak out on the issue. In attendance were five members of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, which last week passed a resolution in favor of keeping the mining ban.

Also on hand were Virginia Coalition President John Cannon, Halifax Del. James Edmunds, South Boston Vice-Mayor Ed Owens, and several other Halifax and South Boston officials. Jack Dunavant, chairman of We The People of Virginia and a Halifax councilman, was there with his daughter, Sarah.

One couple who lives next to the Coles Hill property in Pittsylvania, Anderson and Elizabeth Jones, said there were not satisfied by what for all appearances looked like the demise of uranium mining this year.

Jones said he wanted nothing less than a permanent ban on mining and milling in the state.

“They keep passing things over, passing things over. We need them to take a stand. We’ve got all these community leaders, they need to make a decision,” he said.

The Joneses live nearby Cherrystone creek which runs next to the Coles Hill mine site. Elizabeth Jones called their farm, in the Jones’ family for 95 years, “a beautiful place, rural, quiet, and mining will destroy it.

“The scare for Pittsylvania and Southside Virginia has to stop,” she said, and her husband added it was “very disappointing” to him that Virginia Uranium Inc. “is trying to bring that poison to my community.

“We need to ban it forever,” Anderson Jones said.

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Yup, we can all continue to struggle with no jobs and the high price of everything. At least it will be nice and quiet...


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