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City to oppose lifting uranium mining ban
Thursday, November 22, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville City Council is ready to take an official stand against allowing uranium mining in Virginia.
The city’s proposed legislative agenda for 2013 asks the General Assembly to continue the current moratorium on uranium mining because allowing mining “would result in highly damaging effects on all other economic development efforts in the region, excluding the jobs created by a mine itself.”
“If it makes us a less attractive community,” said Councilman Gene Teague, the need to keep the mining ban is “something we should weigh in on.”
He said residents have asked the council to support continuing the ban.
State lawmakers will reconvene in Richmond in January.
The council will consider adopting its legislative agenda at its meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.
In 1983, the General Assembly banned uranium mining statewide. Scientists have voiced concerns that the mining could harm the environment and public health.
Virginia Uranium Inc. wants the ban repealed so it can mine and mill uranium at a location near Chatham thought to be one of the world’s largest deposits of the metal. The company maintains the mine would create hundreds of jobs and its operations would be safe.
City Attorney Eric Monday prepared the legislative agenda. Apparently, he placed the request to keep the uranium mining ban in the document after a council candidates forum in October where opposition to the mining was voiced, according to Mayor Kim Adkins.
Adkins said she has not yet discussed with other council members whether they want to see the ban continued.
However, she and the other council members said in phone interviews they want to keep the ban due to lingering questions on whether mining and milling uranium is dangerous and a health hazard.
Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. noted there are “a number of studies” that indicate potential dangers. He said he supports keeping the moratorium until he sees studies proving that mining is not hazardous.
Council members Mark Stroud and Danny Turner both said they are “not convinced that it (mining) can be done safely.”
“A lot of localities already have asked the commonwealth” to keep the ban, Stroud said.
The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors and Danville City Council so far have not, although 53 percent of residents there indicated they favor keeping the ban in a recent poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University for the Alliance for Progress in Southern Virginia.
Chatham is in Pittsylvania County.
The Henry County Board of Supervisors has not taken a position on keeping the ban. County Administrator Tim Hall said he so far has received no indication that the board would consider taking one.
Martinsville’s proposed legislative agenda asks federal and state lawmakers for numerous things, including for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits needed to continue development of the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.
Henry County and Martinsville are jointly developing the industrial park off U.S. 220 south of Ridgeway, near the North Carolina line.
The agenda is much the same as last year’s, except for the Commonwealth Crossing and uranium matters. Other city desires include:
• Continued support and funding for the New College Institute due to its “potential to promote economic development” locally and regionally.
• Increased state and federal funding for localities, such as Martinsville, with extremely high unemployment rates.
• Progress being made toward developing the planned Interstate 73, which would run through Henry County, and parts of U.S. 220 that would overlay the new highway being upgraded to interstate standards.
• Completing improvements to U.S. 58.