Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Public Comments on Uranium Study in Virginia

For those of us who are interested in the developments pertaining to the domestic mining of uranium, you may find it noteworthy that perhaps the largest deposit of uranium ore in the United States is located in southwestern Virginia.

There won't be any uranium mining in Virginia any time soon though, since there has long been a moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia. But, recently there have been proposals of conducting a study to determine whether uranium can be mined safely and what the potential impacts may be.

Last night, the Virginia Coal and Energy Commission held a public meeting in Chatham, Virginia, simply to hear public comments pertaining to the study of the feasibility of uranium mining. From some of the comments (e.g., likening mining to "brutal rape"), you would think that the study is tantamount to actually starting mining operations.

More information about the public meeting can be found here (incl. video). Some interesting (and often outrageous) comments from the meeting can be found here.


Marcel F. Williams said...

If they consider uranium mining 'brutal rape', what do they consider coal mining: "Just laying back and enjoying it????" What hypocrisy!

Marcel F. Williams

djysrv said...

Some thoughts on the economics of the mine, assuming Virginia ever gives it a green light, are here.

Anonymous said...

The comment about "rape" of Mother Earth was spoken by a Native American Indian, so we should respect their beliefs about the sacredness and protection of Mother Earth and Father Sky. No one was asking him about coal mining during this hearing - The hearing was specific to speaking about a study of uranium mining, which would likely be conducted in Virginia by the very old method of open-pit mining. And with two very large deposits at Coles Hill, one can only imagine what the mining would look like.

As far as economics, the negative ramifications -- especially long-term -- are dire. Most mining towns are vacated by those who can afford to move -- your highest bracket taxpayers. Then there's 100years down the road - When VUI has long gone and left the residents of Virginia with the expense of monitoring the soil and groundwater around what would be a massive amount of underground mill tailings, etc.; That will have to be done FOREVER, and no one has talked about how that is going to be paid for. If a breach or leak in the tailings liners occur, which could very well happen, who is going to pay the very expensive costs of attempting to remediate, repair or replace that storage area?? Who is going to pay to ultimately decommission the mill? Those kinds of costs run into the multi-millions, so any short-term economic boost is simply not going to be comparable to the long-term expenses affilated with such a proposed project.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, some still don't realize that radioactive elements decay and are not around forever.

Sad how much ignorance exists about radiation even on the NEI blog.

Anonymous said...

I’m baffled why anyone would be against a scientific study. To assume an answer in advance of this study exhibits an extreme amount of prejudice, arrogance, and lack of intellectual honesty. Uranium is currently mined safely world-wide in a variety of environmental conditions – hot, cold, wet, and dry. God has blessed this area with a valuable natural resource, how can anyone simply assume that what is done safely by others in so many other places cannot be done safely in Pittsylvania County Virginia?
Is the assumption that we Virginians aren’t smart enough or that the laws of science somehow apply differently in Virginia? Only an ignorant person would assume such things. You have to STUDY the project to know the answers.

Furthermore, the residents of the Coles Hill where the uranium deposits are located have lived and farmed that land for 150 years. In fact, they could have sold the mineral rights to a major corporation long ago, but the Coles family plans to be there for generations after mine is closed. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking they are a cut and run operation, and a decommissioning fund is required to operate such a facility.

Anonymous said...

The thing about uranium is that it is concentrated energy... The surface expression of the south Coles Hill deposit is 14 acres. The mining plan from the early 1980's showed a open pit size of less than 100 acres. Virginia Uranium owns about 3000 acres, thus there is plenty of set back. By most mining standards, the envisioned open pit is quite small. Again, this is concentrated energy.

The leases that Virginia Uranium Inc. signed with the owners of the mineral rights require that the land be restored to its approximate orginal contour once mining is complete. By law, Virginia Uranium Inc. must purchase a bond, before the first shovel hits the ground, to provide the financial assurances for reclamation. The bond is reviewed on an annual basis to make sure it will provide adequate coverage.

Let's talk about the "dire" economic implications. Pittsylvania County with a population of about 50K has relied on tobacco, textiles and furniture manufacturing. Those are mostly all gone... Unemployment is amongst the highest in the state. There are 1,400 farms in the county, generating about $55 million in revenue per year. Now compare this to the potential economics of the Coles Hill uranium project: 5 million lbs of uranium production per year x $70 per lb long term contract price = $350 million per year in revenue, with an estimated 20 year mine life.

Mike Stuart said...

1. First of all, it's a study not a mining mandate.

2. The Chatham area is currently economically depressed. The influx of jobs and wealth can be of great help to the area, even if they aren't forever. Few people have guaranteed job stability for life. Why deny them the economic opportunity just because the uranium isn't infinite?

3. If we're going to talk about US energy independence, we'd better be ready to actually use some of our resources to get there.

But first things first. If the study says it can't be done or that the risk is too high, then by all means, fight it. Until then, participate in the process and don't presume that you know more than the experts, unless of course you happen to be an expert.