News / USA

Despite Legislative Stall, Virginia Mining Debate Grinds On

Brian Padden
One of the largest uranium-ore deposits in the world, valued at about $7 billion, is located in an economically-depressed, rural area of the southern U.S. state of Virginia.
 
Deep underground at Coles Hill, a spread of mostly pasture and farmland, lies more than 53 million kilos [119 million pounds] of uranium ore, which a company called Virginia Uranium is seeking state approval to mine.
 
“We are in a part of Virginia that’s dealing with double-digit unemployment," says company spokesman Patrick Wales, who suggests the project would be good for the struggling local economy. "The median household income in our part of Virginia is less than $30,000. And so it’s not only the creation of these thousand jobs that our project would support, but these are good high-paying jobs as well.”
 
Wales also says the mine would make the United States less reliant on foreign imports of the highly radioactive metal needed to power the country’s 104 nuclear reactors.
 
However, Deborah Ferruccio and fellow regional activists have so far been able to block the company’s efforts to lift a ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
 
Arguing that uranium mining around the world has caused large-scale environmental damage, she and her supporters have shown that the practice releases toxic levels of radioactive waste into local water supplies and even spreads poisonous dust into the atmosphere.
 
“They know that it is impossible to contain the waste," Ferruccio says of the company officials. "They know that they can try to minimize the waste contamination that gets out, but, for instance, all liners leak. They’re going to put this in a lined [zone], what would be similar to a landfill.”
 
“It is our incumbent responsibility as a company to demonstrate that we will be able to mine and mill and safely store our tailings," says Wales, concurring that Virginia Uranium will take measures to protect the water supply during mining, and plans to store the tailings (radioactive waste) underground, encased in layers of clay and synthetic liners.
 
In 1978 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) developed stringent uranium safety regulations to protect human health and the environment. NRC uranium expert Bill Von Till says even if Virginia lifts the ban, the company must also meet the federal commission's high standards.
 
“In the end if they can’t satisfy our regulatory criteria and allow us to make sure that is it going to be protective of public health and safety, we will not issue a license," he said.
 
Naomi Hodge-Muse, who lives near the site of the uranium deposit, is not persuaded by either government requirements or the company’s assurances. She says ordinary people are being asked to assume all the risk so an elite few can reap the financial rewards.
 
“We’re going to sacrifice poor whites and poor blacks for the prosperity of, well, the nuclear industry, really,” she says.
 
For now, efforts to lift the uranium mining ban have stalled in the Virginia General Assembly, but both sides say the issue is still very much alive and they will continue to lobby lawmakers and build public support for future legislative battles.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More