Southside Virginia lawmakers are not interested in lifting the uranium mining moratorium

Southside lawmakers said there was little local enthusiasm for lifting Virginia’s uranium mining moratorium.

In fact, there’s “exactly the opposite,” Del said. Danny Marshall, R-Danville.

Map by Robert Lunsford.

The 1982 moratorium has been challenged in the past, but uranium mining was so unpopular among Virginians that nothing ever came of it.

Consolidated Uranium, a Toronto-based company, recently acquired the Coles Hill property in Pittsylvania County, located on the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the country.

The company cannot extract the uranium because of the moratorium, although the acquisition could prompt further efforts to lift it.

But a first look at things suggests that local support for uranium mining hasn’t grown since the last attempt to reverse the moratorium in 2013.

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville. Courtesy of Marshal.

“I’m a property rights person,” Marshall said. But he still has concerns about radioactive waste that would result from uranium mining.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, uranium mining leaves radioactive waste, regardless of how the uranium is extracted. Solid waste from uranium mining is referred to as “tailings”.

“I think these residues are radioactive for another 500 years,” Marshall said.

According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, tailings take thousands of years to decay, producing a radioactive gas called radon in the process.

But the commission has rules “to protect public health and safety from the danger these tailings piles may pose” such as keeping them isolated from long-term storage or disposal and requiring adequate funding for the closure of a mining site, the tailings pile close properly, and monitor the site over the long term.

State Senator Frank Ruff, R-Kreis Mecklenburg. Courtesy of Ruf.

Still, both Marshall and R-Mecklenburg County Sen. Frank Ruff said there wasn’t much local support for lifting the moratorium.

Due to the redistribution, Ruff’s area of ​​representation after the 2023 election will include Pittsylvania County, making him a future local voice on the matter.

“I don’t think anyone has changed their mind about uranium being mined and milled in the county,” he said in an email, adding that there is currently limited demand for uranium, particularly at the expense of establishing one new operation.

But that will probably no longer be the case in the future, he said.

“I would assume the Canadian company would bet on that,” Ruff said. “The price of uranium would have to increase dramatically to justify this project.”

Del. Les Adams, R-Pittsylvania County. Courtesy of Adams.

Del. Les Adams, a Pittsylvania County Republican, also hasn’t heard any new state-level interest in lifting the moratorium, according to his chief of staff, Shani Shorter.

The Virginia House of Delegates’ Trade and Energy Commission held an energy retreat this summer ahead of the Coles Hill acquisition, Marshall said.

Talking about uranium, experts said there was oversupply in the market and the price was low. It doesn’t make economic sense to mine uranium at Coles Hill, Marshall said.

But Consolidated Uranium disagrees.

“It is economically beneficial to the state and could be done safely,” said Marty Tunney, President of Consolidated Uranium. The company will likely push for the moratorium to be lifted in the future, although it currently has no plans to do so, Tunney said.

If people were better informed about the new technologies and safety protocols in uranium mining, they might be less opposed to it, Tunney said.