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Letter: Naomi Hodge-Muse
Uranium mining opposed
Sunday, March 6, 2011
The prospect of uranium mining at Coles Hill looms over Henry County like a large foreboding cloud. Few people understand the milling process, and because they do not understand it, there is silence - after all, it is in Pittsylvania County. Nothing is closer to the truth.
If you like to garden, play golf, walk in the park or mow your lawn, then you have a horse in this race. Here is a Web address for more detailed information: www.pecva.org/anx/index.cfm/1,391,1325,0,html/The-Mining-and-Milling-Process.
Below is a short breakdown explaining how uranium ore is processed.
Milling process defined:
Milling involves extracting uranium from mined ore. The ore is crushed into a very fine sand and the uranium is leached or washed out. This is the process, which creates "yellowcake." In situ leaching is a combined mining and milling operation.
Tailings are defined below:
Large quantities of radioactive waste is generated by uranium mining and milling. It is estimated that "only 2 to 4 pounds of concentrated uranium oxide yellow cake obtained from each ton (2,000 pounds) of ore taken out of the ground." Yet the waste material will contain 85 percent of the original radioactivity. Additionally, this waste will remain radioactive thousands of years.
Tailings can contain several hazardous substances, including radium (which decays to produce radon) selenium, molybdenum, uranium and thorium. The mill tailings and the mill effluent (water) used to wash out the yellow cake is highly radioactive.
Why should we the population of Southwestern Virginia oppose uranium mining?
1.) Uranium mining is unheard of east of the Mississippi.
2.) The reason uranium mining has never occurred east of the Mississippi is a dense population and a high annual rain fall.
3.) Virginia is a farming state ranging from dairy, forestry and produce; this will destroy Virginia farmers.
4.) The high possibility of polluting Lake Kerr with uranium tailings. Because uranium and other radioactive materials are soluble in surface and ground water, the EPA has stated that water is probably the most significant means of dispersal. The Banister River runs along the Cole Hill site.
It is estimated 90 percent of the water consumed in the Tidewater comes from Lake Kerr. Let's say it is less - perhaps 50 percent - would the pollution of their drinking water source be acceptable?
Radioactivity is linked to birth defects, lung cancer, kidney failure and diabetes. The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico use to raise carrots; now their land is useless. Water is shipped in weekly. New Mexico is dry and arid, and its ground water is very deep. Even with all that said, uranium mining in New Mexico had rendered the water on the reservation undrinkable.
I know this because a Pueblo Indian came to Chatham and told us of the plight of his people. We must not swap what we have for what we do not need. Uranium mining will kill our way of life. This is not a political party issue; this is a rights issue, the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.