Supervisors vote 5-1 to oppose uranium mining

Published 11:30 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

COURTLAND—Southampton County supervisors on Monday voted 5-1 to support continuing a ban on uranium mining in Virginia.

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter opposed the resolution.

“You put so much effort on ‘let’s not do it,’ but we need to find a way to do it safely,” Porter said. “There are people working in that way. When you shut them down before you get all the information, I don’t think you are doing anyone justice.”

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike, who initially supported delaying action until December when a report on uranium mining in Virginia is due, agreed with Porter’s thoughts, but supported the resolution.

“They had some scare tactics with nuclear energy, and we handled that technology-wise,” Updike said. “People were up in arms. Thank goodness technology came through.”

A multi-agency state panel studying the possibility of uranium mining in Virginia in mid-December will submit its report to lawmakers. Legislators in January will be asked to lift a 30-year ban so a mining company can tap a 119-million-pound deposit of the radioactive ore in Chatham north of Danville in south-central Virginia.

Boykins-Branchville District Supervisor Carl Faison said until someone can show him uranium mining is safe; he doesn’t favor lifting the ban.

“Even if we say that right now it’s proven this is safe, why not present another resolution (at that time),” Faison said.

Jerusalem District Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards doesn’t think uranium mining will ever be proven safe in Virginia.

“I don’t see anything wrong with continuing the ban until we find out more,” Edwards said.

He noted that most uranium mining is done in Canada and Australia, thousands of miles from nowhere.

“Forty percent of uranium miners get lung cancer,” Edwards said. “I don’t think we need uranium. We get all we need from Canada and Australia.”

Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West also favored continuing the ban.

“I don’t feel right to expose people to the potential horrors,” West said.

Courtland resident Virginia Cutchin proposed the resolution. Cutchin’s concerns are for drinking water, human health and tourism.

Andrew Lester, executive director for the Roanoke River Basin Association, spoke in favor of the resolution.

“You do this, you do it at your own risk,” Lester said. “There is no operating manual with uranium mining. We have tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes.”

He noted the mining would leave 28 million tons of residue.

“That’s like 14 million cars,” Lester said. “This stuff stays radioactive for thousands of years and you have to maintain it without it going into the waters.”

It’s been feared that Lake Gaston, which provides drinking water to areas of Hampton Roads, could become contaminated.