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Uranium: Local businesses oppose mining

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Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am

Approximately 30 years ago, uranium was discovered at Coles Hill, located in Pittsylvania County in southern Virginia. At that time, the company that discovered the deposit began testing to learn more about the uranium deposit, in hopes of mining it. In 1982, the Commonwealth of Virginia established a moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia.

Due to declining market prices for uranium, interest in developing the resource at Coles Hill waned, and the company’s mineral leases expired. But in recent years, there is a renewed interest in the uranium deposit.

As a result, the commonwealth is considering whether to end its 30-year moratorium on uranium mining and milling.

For the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, this is one of the most important issues to impact our community, our businesses and our commonwealth because Coles Hill is the only uranium site in Virginia ready to be mined and milled should the Virginia General Assembly lift the current moratorium.

The Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business, pro-economic development organization, comprising almost 700 member enterprises. The Chamber is dedicated to representing private enterprise, promoting business, and enhancing the quality of life. Our Chamber represents the region which includes Pittsylvania County, where Coles Hill is located.

When the issue of uranium mining and milling resurfaced in 2007, our organization supported neutral, comprehensive and independent studies that took into account all relevant factors regarding the impact of uranium mining in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Board of Directors of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce has engaged in a thoughtful deliberation in considering a position on uranium mining and milling that focused on our membership, the economic vitality and sustainability of our region, and the core values to which we adhere. We intentionally did not rush into a position.

As part of the Chamber’s deliberation, Chamber members — the region’s business community — were asked to submit remarks to the organization that focused on whether the Chamber should take a position, what position the Chamber should take if we took a position, and how the proposed uranium mine and mill would impact their businesses.

We pledged to our members that their responses would remain confidential, as this issue has become extremely divisive and contentious in our community.

After a comprehensive review, and despite multiple studies and informational forums, our Chamber still has significant questions. We do not believe uranium can be mined and milled safely — without incident or harm to the health, economy and environment of the surrounding region — at the Coles Hill site.

While considering possible economic benefits of such an industry, our Chamber still has significant concerns surrounding the potential impact of uranium mining and milling on existing businesses and the region’s ability to attract, retain and grow jobs.

Our region has suffered tremendous job losses in past years; however, we have made significant strides in recent years to attract new, high-wage, high-skill jobs for our region.

We are working tirelessly to transform our economy from one that almost collapsed with the demise of the tobacco and textile industries to an economy that provides expanded opportunity and increased well-being for all the region’s residents.

After careful consideration, the Board of Directors of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce believes there are still too many questions and uncertainties that could have negative irreversible consequences on our region and on our Commonwealth.

Those grave concerns led to the adoption of a position to strongly encourage the Virginia General Assembly to maintain the moratorium on uranium mining and milling in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to oppose the development of a uranium permitting program and regulatory framework that would effectively end the state’s moratorium.

We hope the members of the Virginia General Assembly will listen to and respect the voice of business from the region most impacted by this issue.

Laurie S. Moran is president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her at


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